If you had to pick just one major issue holding back the merchandise planning process, which would it be?
What if I told you that there was something else holding you back? Something as simple as TIME.
Time may be of the essence, but time is also the issue. Merchandise offices and planners in particular are extremely busy and required to move at a fast pace to predict and keep up with seasonal and consumer demands. And when you tack on the constant grind of getting ready for the next floor set, there just isn't a lot of time. So the burning question is this:
Where do you find the time to innovate, adopt new practices and change the way that you are doing business today?
Along with incorporating the right technology into your retail business, these seven tips will help merchandisers and planners become the ultimate champion for their retail business.
The key is to re-platform all your meetings and focus on the outcomes. Put together an outcome-based agenda that specifically states the changes that will be made by the end of the meeting. When putting together the agenda for your merchandising team, ask these three questions:
Many people in the retail industry live by the "I shop, therefore I am an expert" mindset. While that may be partially true, when it comes to merchandising, regular, everyday shoppers aren't always quite the expert the retail brand is looking for. To keep things moving along, there is a simple tool that is useful to make sure everyone knows who is completing the activity and who owns or is making the important decisions about particular topics along the way:
RACI: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, Informed. RACI answers the question, "Who is responsible for completing the task?
People tend to get stuck on what they're used to doing and what they know and understand. Take a quick look at how you're doing things. Don't spend too much time producing poor results because you're not using the right tool. Go back to the drawing board if you need to and reevaluate your options.
Whether it is assortment localization, inventory visibility or something else that you need to make a priority, align the sequence of events, set the due dates and reset your planning calendar accordingly. A skilled project manager will often have the right approach to ensure you are following the best sequence throughout your processes, dealing with prerequisite tasks at the right time and for the right reason.
The hard truth is, facts are facts. Facts don't care about your feelings. Are you using the right facts to make decisions? While emotion is not a bad thing, it doesn't change the truth. Be sure to look at rates of sale, selling curves, etc., and make sure you have research and statistics behind the decisions that you need to make.
This step is where the left-brained logicians should get involved. Where are my spreadsheet lovers? Those with the more logical, statistical minds should work to reset the planning calendar and adjust the sequences and due dates. It's important to look at the calendar of events and adjust any dates or activities as needed.
While artificial intelligence seems to be the common denominator in the technology industry, humans will always have native intelligence at their fingertips. The question is, are you using it? True technologists should be aligning AI and NI in real time for optimum results.
All of these acronyms are probably things you know today. But ultimately, these steps are a methodology for merchandising success. And like any good project methodology, it needs a name: OCTAGON.
Once you have a more organized process in place and some freed up time on your hands, you will feel confident enough to successfully put your merchandising methodology into action. It's an exciting time for retailers, so as you're fighting the wars of today and digging into the technology of the future, don't be afraid to step into the OCTAGON and be the ultimate merchandising champion for your retail business.
To learn more about current merchandising trends and review the OCTAGON methodology in greater detail, you can watch on demand Aptos' recent webinar, Five for Five — Today's Must-do Merchandising Trends and Tips, hosted by myself and RSR's Paula Rosenblum.