• 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: 08/14/2018

    ‘Less is more’ when competing with Amazon

    Before the conversation even involves Amazon, "less is more" is probably the right strategy for most mall retailers. I was in the mall three times a week during 2016 before spending 2017 in China. The retailers in the most trouble, Aéropostale and New York & Company. for instance, were trying to solve their problems with "more." Aéropostale went bankrupt. I suspect New York & Company came close. I am now back in the malls and both Aéropostale and New York & Company are operating with 20 percent to 25 percent less inventory on the floor. Stories are focused and actually readable. I can't say how Aéropostale is doing as it is now private, but New York & Company has bounced from about $1 per share to more than $4 per share. The constraints of space, attention span and (human) bandwidth are real. Deal with it.
  • Posted on: 08/13/2018

    J.C. Penney goes after Babies ‘R’ Us customers with new shops

    Precisely. Nothing unfocused or passe about Primark assortments.
  • Posted on: 08/13/2018

    J.C. Penney goes after Babies ‘R’ Us customers with new shops

    I think this makes absolute sense. I have said many times that Primark holds many lessons for J.C. Penney -- lessons not learned at J.C. Penney's peril. Primark has outstanding baby and kids assortments at great value -- amazing value. And there is plenty of wasted space in men's and women's apparel at J.C. Penney. It would not be difficult to edit out 15 percent of the very mundane and I am guessing unproductive inventory. Yep, easy speech and very difficult execution, but we are talking re-invention here. If J.C. Penney doesn't take action they are leaving the door wide open for Primark.
  • Posted on: 08/10/2018 to offer easier returns for marketplace purchases

    Easy returns create the opportunity for continued dialog and understanding WHY something didn't work as planned. What else can we try? How else can we help? Maybe not lose the sale ... convert it. Solve problems ... make friends.
  • Posted on: 08/09/2018

    Consortium is made-to-order for people who want customized brands

    Great point about not having any obsolete finished inventory. Similar to when a wholesaler can order sold inventory from the factory. They are buying post-market. If they buy pre-market, they are guessing, no matter how much prior season data they have. "Custom" has applications on both small and large scales. You are selling or buying exactly what is wanted/needed. Nothing more, nothing less. Knowns versus unknowns.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2018

    Amazon delivers latest Prime perk to Whole Foods’ curb

    I'm a Prime household in the process of switching more and more grocery shopping to Whole Foods. An astute shopper can find plenty of value at Whole Foods. And Amazon keeps making it easier. Now if Whole Foods could only replicate the amazing sourdough bread at my other grocer. A couple of superior products will keep me shopping at my current store. Double win for my household.
  • Posted on: 08/08/2018

    Report says voice commerce is all talk

    I'm guessing this is generational. People over 40 might not embrace it quickly or fully, but I suspect that has nothing to do with how Millennials and younger generations will embrace voice commerce. Don't want to be heard shopping in public spaces? I saw a gizmo the other day -- a mouth mask if you will. It mutes your voice to the outside world when you're on the phone. Office mates hear nothing. That may remove some of the reluctance to voice shop. It sounds nutty, but sometimes that's the gears of evolution grinding away.
  • Posted on: 08/07/2018

    Where does art end and retail begin?

    The art doesn't end -- it just sometimes ends in a transaction of some kind. Whether it's a museum or the mall. Explore + Experiment = Experience, whether it's a museum or the mall. I've made a couple of purchases in a museum in Italy. They now sit in my home office as memories of wonderful times. Mall shopping doesn't have to rise to that level, but at a minimum ought to evoke a smile in the process.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2018

    Empty malls spelled the end for Brookstone stores

    "Declining traffic ... " -- Nonsense. It's true but by no means a death knell. Brookstone had an opportunity to become a version of a "Genius Bar" for whole range of fun, clever products. My mantra is Explore + Experiment = Experience. By that definition, Brookstone was an experiential retailer a couple of decades ago. I suppose you could argue that Apple and Microsoft and the phone companies siphoned off what was left of the mall traffic. Maybe. But Brookstone could also have evolved. They didn't.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2018

    Is Target making the right move in dumping C9 Champion?

    By definition, Target must think they can do better on sales and margin with an alternative option. And by definition, C9 failed to evolve the product and the relationship satisfactorily. It's hard to believe they woke up one day and said, " ... let's pull out of Target." I saw TONS of Champion product on the streets of Hangzhou, China over the course of my year there so I absolutely believe in their global aspirations. But c'mon ... "has begun to mature" ... ? Whose fault is that?
  • Posted on: 08/02/2018

    Wayfair to open its first brick & mortar store

    What components of the Wayfair business model would have to change to flip to profitability? How low does the return rate have to be? Why and how would that ever happen? As shocked as I am that Casper seems to be making it work, they have a huge advantage -- a highly-focused product assortment. Wayfair is explosively diverse. The illusion of "unlimited space" in e-commerce often means the right boundaries aren't created. Amazon has it figured out. Wayfair does not. The space may be clearance now, but finite space might help them figure out what's profitable and what isn't.
  • Posted on: 08/02/2018

    Who in retailing’s c-suites should drive customer experience?

    Execution -- always and forever. Across all stores, not just flagships. What can the customer actually tell a friend about? Not what's in the notes from the strategy meeting.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2018

    Will RadioShack find new life inside HobbyTown’s stores?

    I really like the idea of RadioShack trying to evolve into a Genius Bar of sorts. But the brand seems to be rooted in antiquity. It's not unheard of for a brand to shed an old skin and emerge reinvented. So if you're going to evolve, EVOLVE already! The premise of a Genius Bar makes a lot of sense for HobbyTown. Why evolve with an antique partner? Go all the way!
  • Posted on: 07/27/2018

    Having little luck with Millennials, J.C. Penney refocuses on middle-age women

    There is much in J.C. Penney's heritage that suggests they could successfully serve the older customer while they build the platform for bringing the younger customer in. I have said many times that it is as simple (haha) as learning lessons from Primark. I watched Primark open in a "B" mall about 50 yards from a J.C. Penney. From the day Primark opened they were busy. And all the crickets found a home in J.C. Penney. Primark didn't build a fancy store. They just populated a big shell with fresh, fun, INEXPENSIVE product and added new fresh and fun offerings often. Good product that had been smartly merchandised. Great color management and great classification balance. And when I observed the customers I found ALL age groups. To my eye their customer base skewed young because they had an outstanding kids department. Hello Millennial mom. Primark is going to replace J.C. Penney if J.C. Penney doesn't get its act together.
  • Posted on: 07/26/2018

    Study: Online retailers losing billions in sales to out-of-stocks

    This is indeed surprising. When an item is posted there is some kind of data suggesting average rate of sale. And inventory at that moment is known (right?). Why not head this off at the pass when inventory is critically low? Airlines post "only 3 seats left at this price." Hotels post "only 2 rooms available on this date." Amazon posts low levels of inventory. The systems and the knowledge are there to deal with this. Is suggesting an alternative deemed less frustrating than removing the item and not being able to find it at all?
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