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Blog / Nov. 09

Assortment Planning – Why Now is the Time to Renovate

Peter Charness

Want to raise anxiety levels in the merchandise office? Just suggest that it’s time to relook at the assortment planning processes and underlying systems. In most organizations the orchestration of a new assortment, coordinating with all the parties involved (or who have an opinion), working the numbers, samples and in the end getting the product orders placed “just in time” is an exercise of eternal vigilance, tribal knowledge, and fragile systems. The assortment process is completed through a series of meetings, never ending (and non-consolidating) spreadsheets, watching the calendar like a hawk and more than a little brute force. Add it all up and you get an assortment planned, but with a begrudging acknowledgement in the end that, “we could have done this a lot better, but ran out of time.”

As to implementing a new Assortment  Planning solution that might actually make the process flow more smoothly and with better results – Assortment Planning Software Solution implementations can be to say the least – challenging, as there are a lot of moving parts, change management as well as getting a great technology fit. So why should you undertake a renovation of your assortment planning solution today?

Increased merchandise pace means that there are more assortments to plan. Most retail organizations are adding more products, more floor sets, product lifecycles are shorter, so more to do all around. Maybe you are going from 2 or 3 floor sets to 6 or more floor sets. Can you keep up with this substantial new workload doing business “as usual”?

Localizing of assortments produces positive results. This no longer means creating a standard assortment, and adding a little flavor and variation for some stores or store groups, it means creating a number of fairly unique assortments.  Still able to keep up with your current methods….?

More Channels: many retailers have expanded internationally, have added franchise operations, or have branded product that they are wholesaling (even to Amazon…). More hours in the day to handle this one?

That Omni Channel thing – the planning of inventory across all of the different retail ship points means some fundamental changes to your current inventory planning methods and how you look at the drivers that make a product/location decision. Here’s a requirement that will blow up all your existing planning math, and a substantial investment in excel spreadsheets as well.

So with no more hours available in the day, and the probability of hiring more planners and buyers to cope with this rather large increase in workload being somewhere around “nil” it seems that retailers are faced with a Hobson’s Choice in terms of moving to new Assortment Planning solutions and processes…

Helping all parties involved in an Assortment Plan work in a natural fashion, (and supporting new workloads) requires blending pragmatism with some very original capabilities so that all parties involved in the end to end business process work in a natural fashion.  This may mean working with numbers for the planners, colors and images for the buyers, and product specs, bom’s for the product developers.

Navigating the Assortment Planning process means supporting 4 critical business processes: Assortment Strategy, Product Selection, Product Distribution, and Product Quantification, while working in a manner that allows each Retailer to apply their very personal touch to the methods and processes that they use to navigate each of these process requirements.

That said Assortment Planning as an expansive, collaborative business process still leans heavily on a larger overall “Merchandise Lifecycle Management” cycle, that encompasses Financial and Item Planning (with support from clustering and forecasting), of course Assortment Planning, but also PLM, and Allocation, Forecasting and Replenishment, and Vendor Collaboration all of which has to work together and in support of a natural merchandising cycle. Workload doesn’t improve unless all aspects of this Merchandise Cycle are thoroughly supported with continuous business process.

Assortment Planning is at the heart of every Retailer or Brand company’s core being.  Any project that touches on these processes is going to be a transformational project. However maintaining the status quo in light of all the changes facing Retailers today is not a recipe for success. At TXT Retail we’ve supported hundreds of Retailers adopt new merchandising and planning solutions, but we do understand that every Retailers scenario is a bit different.   Give us a call – the Assortment Dr. is in.