• 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: 02/14/2019

    America has too many retail stores

    Yes we are over-stored AND yes there are more nuanced problems in the market. Retailers are proving to have a very wide range of skill levels in interpreting and executing the proper evolutionary moves for this new market. Weaving together the right combination of human and tech solutions is going to be messy, and each retailer is going to have to come up with the appropriate solution for their category and demographic. Apparel, tech, grocery -- all deal with different levels of knowns and unknowns.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Will the new plan for Sears work any better than the previous ones?

    And that would be a really bad hire.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Will the new plan for Sears work any better than the previous ones?

    Smaller? Smaller contributes to focus and clarity of offering. Smaller contributes to efficiency in sales per square foot. Smaller is on the wish list of many retailers these days. Especially the bigger mall anchors ... of every variety. I've long thought of "Sears apparel" as an oxymoron, unless it's workwear. So I think there are lots of apparel categories they could exit and nobody on the planet would lose 5 minutes sleep. Smaller equals a better focus on the core categories that Sears actually has relevance in, to your point below -- relevance. Kenmore, Die Hard, and Craftsman all have reasons for being, or at least did. Still? Who knows? Let them open a new prototype store and show us what the new Sears looks like. Product, path to purchase -- all the goodies. Until then, it's all conjecture. And like I said, "very tough to predict success," not easy.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2019

    Will the new plan for Sears work any better than the previous ones?

    It's very tough to predict success based on what little I have read. A smaller footprint focusing on tools and appliances is a good start, but do they understand how far behind Best Buy and the others they are at this point? It all makes for a nice one-paragraph speech, but the competitive environment is formidable. Is Sears really equipped to make all the necessary investments? When and where do they open a prototype "store-of-the-future"? The speech doesn't mean a darn thing at this point.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2019

    Is there really wisdom in the crowd?

    I think there is a difference between measuring opinions and measuring actions. In apparel, if a customer is surveyed about a given style then "love it!" is a very easy answer to give. But how many "love it!" responses actually result in a purchase? In my experience, that's how a lot of merchandising and editing meetings go off the rails. "Love it!" becomes the driver. Nobody wants to be a naysayer to the design team. But that doesn't necessarily create the best commercial assortment. It's a tricky balance to strike. Great fashion story telling AND balanced for risk.
  • Posted on: 02/08/2019

    Product and promo knowledge won’t make the sale

    I would add a couple of words to a great summation. "...the deepest engagement channel that exists in retail: the store." The store AND its staff. Brand promise and product are differentiators. The staff is a differentiator when the difference in promise and product becomes fuzzy. I've been saying Explore + Experiment = Experience. Emotion is obviously a huge part of shopping, so I may have to add it as the obvious component that it really is. Ex + Ex +Em = Exp. And the staff will contribute heavily there -- or not.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2019

    J.C. Penney dumps appliances

    This doesn't feel like new news. It feels like it was just a matter of time. Marvin tried to get into a business where he had expertise. And with Sears's demise, it might have sounded logical. But the logistics of the appliance business are a universe unto themselves. I never saw any synergies with the apparel business. Now Jill is going where she has strength and expertise. But I'm not sure what "legacy strengths" means anymore, if anything. We are in a "that was then, this is now" environment. Lots of now bankrupt companies had legacy strengths, and their reliance on those so-called strengths blinded them to the necessary changes the market was demanding of them.
  • Posted on: 02/05/2019

    Will Target’s dynamic pricing strategy erode customers’ trust?

    Somebody should have their calculator taken away and they should be issued a thinking cap instead. !@#$%^&* algorithms. They make us both smarter and dumber. In this case dumber. How many times would this happen to a customer before they would just stop shopping at that retailer? Who's in charge, merchants or mathematicians? And I've been thinking such good things about Target lately.
  • Posted on: 02/04/2019

    Did Trader Joe’s make the right decision to end grocery deliveries?

    The key words are "unsustainable cost increases." Trader Joe's is focusing on their core mission -- high-quality, high-value food. Product. And they are not pretending that unprofitable path-to-purchase solutions are a path to future brand health. So maybe they are losing some business that they would lose money on. I see no problem with that. Ceding unprofitable market share? So is every retailer in the process of closing stores. I see no problem with that. Right-sizing their way to long term brand health and prosperity? Sounds like the right move to me. And of course they can keep testing and experimenting with e-commerce options.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2019

    Is trust the next omnichannel inflection point?

    All true. There are lots of opportunities for a physical retailer to disappoint. But they are also opportunities to delight. The messaging, information and promise I read on websites is sometimes rock solid and sometimes total puffery. And both physical and digital stores have ultimately the same physical promise to execute to -- the product. Does it deliver the brand promise? The transaction may disappoint. Does the product perform? I find that the skill level of overall execution falls into a bell curve for both physical and digital stores.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2019

    Is trust the next omnichannel inflection point?

    Good point. So the digital guys had the advantage of learning from the malaise the brick-and-mortar stores fell into. They had the advantage of extremely limited choices. Be honest or die. Be authentic or die. Perform or die. Perform or never be clicked on again. The consumer has LOTS of choices. Ultimately I still think it comes down to authenticating the reality of delivering on the promise. For me, internet shopping is enabled after trust is established. I personally have to migrate from "unknown" to "known." Thanks. I always learn from a good pressure test.
  • Posted on: 02/01/2019

    Is trust the next omnichannel inflection point?

    Trust grows out of performance. Consistently delivering on the brand promise. Authenticity. Transparency. I don't see digital or physical as having an advantage here. If anything digital has an extra step or two to authenticate the reality of the promise. Turns out physical stores are very handy in accomplishing that.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2019

    Social media responsiveness builds Millennial loyalty

    Good old fashioned customer service. Easier, quicker, and with exponentially more feedback available with exponentially more transparency.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2019

    Can sentiment analysis improve merchandising calls?

    I was hoping "sentiment analysis" was the same as answering the "why?" question (apparel). WHY did the customer choose style A over style B. Style? Color? Fit? Fabric? Trim? Performance (stretch)? Which product attribute should be replicated when chasing a best seller? Which attribute should be changed to fix a slow seller? What did the customer "feel" about their choice? Getting to "why" is still a challenge.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2019

    Is experiential retail overhyped and misunderstood?

    Explore + Experiment = Experience. Or "treasure hunt." Or the really old-fashioned "retail = theater." Gap ought to be able to provide an experience without devoting a corner of the store to a latte bar or tarot card readings. Well-edited assortments with good color management (ok, curated if you must) has always been the assignment. Malls are working hard on food and entertainment. Empty space is high incentive. Individual mall stores need to nail the basics first. Product = first. Then come all the right path-to-purchase components that make sense for that store. AI and VR do not solve basic product content and presentation issues. And yes, the basics are different today than they were five, 10 and 20 years ago.
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