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 Saks) as well as specialty stores (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.

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  • Posted on: 02/06/2023

    Is it time for retailers to pay their managers OT?

    Creating jobs or promoting people into "manager" jobs, without a pay increase, with the express intent of avoiding overtime payments? That's heinous. If offered such a job, can a worker say "no thanks" without repercussions? It all sounds like something out of the Industrial Revolution that should be very much in our distant past rather than a tactic still being employed in this day and age.
  • Posted on: 02/03/2023

    Will Kohl’s new CEO prove to be a good shepherd or a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

    Mr. Kingsbury appears to be a solid choice. And now it gets interesting. Will the first couple of announcements be about customers, products, merchandising and marketing or real estate, operations and finance? There's work to be done on all fronts, but let's see where the time, energy and dollars get invested first. If the first investments aren't in areas immediately observable by customers, then we may have a financial engineering project underway. Not necessarily a bad thing, but retail turnarounds need to be driven by the customer applauding and voting with their wallet.
  • Posted on: 02/02/2023

    How do consumer brands really feel about buying ads from retailers?

    Even "pay to play" evolves in a digital world!
  • Posted on: 02/02/2023

    How do consumer brands really feel about buying ads from retailers?

    Are dollars spent on RMNs efficient and effective? Do they work? Or are they another bludgeon retailers use with brands like stocking fees and margin deals? I'm surprised at the statement that RMNs are rarely a "choose to use" decision. 98% said that they get some level of pressure to participate in RMNs. That's not totally shocking in that retailers will always behave like retailers. That doesn't mean RMNs are a bad use of marketing dollars. I would have thought RMNs provided access to consumers that were already actively engaged in a shopping moment, ready to make decisions on what, and where, to buy. Sounds like the perfect moment to catch their eyeballs. So why the "have to use" versus "choose to use"?
  • Posted on: 02/01/2023

    Is technology the answer to better customer experiences in grocery stores?

    I really like the way the article talks about empowering people versus replacing people. Genie in a bottle, indeed!
  • Posted on: 02/01/2023

    Pacsun to stick with its co-CEO model as one leader prepares to depart

    A co-CEO model probably has more potential landmines than it does upsides. But it all boils down to the working relationship between the players. I'm sure Ms. Olson and Mr. Relish already have a deep and complementary working relationship, so in this case it doesn't look problematic. You could even say that the leadership office has simplified as it narrowed from three people down to two. More importantly, the proof is in the execution. I was in a PacSun yesterday as part of a two day, end-of-the-year mall tour. PacSun looked great. They have managed to stake out an aesthetic and attitude distinctly different from both AEO and Abercrombie & Fitch. The teen customer is well served with a great breadth of product and personalities. They had fresh product nicely presented at the front of the store and minimal prior season inventory at the back of the store. Looked like sound execution to me. It used to be simple to suggest that a merchant should sit in a retail CEO office. But these days the operational aspects of the business are at least as important as the product development aspects. Sometimes more so. And if that's best addressed with co-CEOs, so be it.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2023

    What does Amazon know about delivering groceries that others don’t get?

    Cheek? Amazon is alone is seeking out lower prices as inflations ebbs? Think maybe Walmart and a couple of other retailers might be out there doing the same thing? And I'm guessing the planes are money makers.
  • Posted on: 01/31/2023

    Hy-Vee uses tech and people to deliver a sense of awe in its stores

    Sounds like very thoughtful application of tech. Streamlining and simplifying the whole experience for customer and employee alike. And I love the comment about how "digital is so segmented it’s hard to communicate to a large group of consumers at once." That's a very real recognition that blast emails can only talk to so many people at once. It's a recognition that menus can vary wildly across a range of households. Another opportunity for personalization!
  • Posted on: 01/31/2023

    What does Amazon know about delivering groceries that others don’t get?

    Amazon "does not see a way to deliver groceries profitability without fees." Boom. Simple. And I think every grocer has similar if not identical awareness. So once again Amazon leads the way and pioneers an effort other retailers can copy. Only this time it's about adding fees rather than going down the "free" rabbit hole. I can almost hear the audible sigh of relief coming from the retail community. And customers will of course be outraged, but I think will soon realize how good they had it there for a while. Once again it turns out that free is not free. And convenience can be somewhere between expensive and very expensive. "Free" was a great customer acquisition and retention tool for a long time, but the math of profitability cannot be repealed indefinitely.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2023

    Sam’s is back in the business of opening warehouse clubs

    Sounds like Sam's has spent the last several years being a serious student of the market, front to back. And with a bifurcating economy where value is paramount, the growth opportunity is there. Capital improvements can't be made all at once. It was smart to pause store growth while they updated existing stores and learned a lot of lessons in the process. Mindful evolution, while learning along the way.
  • Posted on: 01/30/2023

    How much say should retailers have over an associate’s appearance?

    Front-line employees are indeed a huge part of delivering on the brand promise. So sure, employers have a lot of latitude in setting the standards for appearance and behavior. But that has to come with the appropriate guidance and training and support. That might even include financial support sometimes. Dental work is a little more expensive than a haircut. I'm reminded about all the conversation regarding "essential" front line employees. And then keep it a level playing field. If somebody who is not front facing needs the same kind of support, be there for them.
  • Posted on: 01/27/2023

    Has luxury retailing become more recession-resistant?

    Sure, luxury retail is recession-resistent, but that's of small comfort in the grand scheme of things. So the well-to-do can keep shopping. Great. I'd feel much better about the economy as a whole if I read about and witnessed a newly energized middle market. A continuing bifurcation of retail doesn't feel like a healthy path to to be traveling.
  • Posted on: 01/27/2023

    Is it time for retailers to radically rethink their business models?

    It's always time to be rethinking your business model -- always. Positive momentum and LY data can provide a foundation, but they can also be the enemy of change and evolution. Unfortunately, there were a number of years (decades) where LY was a perfectly good blueprint. That hasn't been the case for several years now. Sustainability demands evolution in both product development and the product itself. Technology demands evolution in every single process in retailing. Legacy business models are quickly becoming antiques. Target provides a lot of valuable lessons. They took a lot of grief for expensive investments made over the years. Now lots of retailers wish they were the same kind of long-term thinkers.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2023

    Has it gotten harder to find a top notch retail CEO?

    Today's retail CEOs need to be as good at learning as they are at leading. There are too many changes happening on too many fronts for any CEO to say that they fully embrace what needs to happen on every front. So they have to hire and empower the right lieutenants. And the whole executive team has to have enough humility to recognize their own individual blind spots and therefore respect the fact that somebody else on the team will address that blind spot. Humility is an uncommon trait in retail, or in life for that matter. CEOs used to be able to say "damn the torpedoes" and press on. These days the torpedoes actually have to be dealt with.
  • Posted on: 01/26/2023

    Mobile clinics could make Dollar General a medical destination point

    Both companies are giving underserved markets much needed products and services. Big thumbs up. But do they really need each other to do that? I'm having a tough time spotting the the synergies and efficiencies, other than saying if there is a DG store in the neighborhood, it probably deserves a look as an area that could benefit from a new healthcare offering (not already addressed by all the other retailers expanding into healthcare). And if a permanent office isn't warranted, then mobile makes abundant sense. For now, maybe it's enough to applaud the fact that underserved markets are getting much needed attention. The competitive marketplace will sort out the details.

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