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.

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  • Posted on: 08/03/2020

    Is the future of malls outside?

    Sounds like a solid short term solution for a defined number of locations. And a solid long term solution (already in motion) for a defined number of locations. But a short term COVID-19 solution is not the same as a long term e-commerce shift solution.
  • Posted on: 08/03/2020

    How is Tractor Supply acing the pandemic?

    How about they just really, really, really know and understand their customers' needs and wants? Focus and discipline. Great listening and adapting to shifting customer habits. Plus a lot of free standing, well-placed, right-sized stores and a less intense competitive environment than the malls.
  • Posted on: 07/31/2020

    Nov. 2021: How should retail plan for a return to normal?

    At this point I don't think it's about planning for some "new normal." I think it's about planning how to navigate a combination of a minefield and quicksand, with the occasional piece of steady ground to be the exception, not the rule. Planning windows are six weeks to six months, not six to 18 months. National chains will have a combination of all the above, so agility and flexibility in the supply chain will be of paramount importance. The shift to e-commerce will continue, but the planning and execution at the brick-and-mortar level will have to be highly regional. I don't think it could get much more complicated.
  • Posted on: 07/30/2020

    What didn’t Jeff Bezos know and when didn’t he know it?

    Disappointing and disingenuous. He had to know going in that he would be expected to answer that question. It was a moment to either build trust or skepticism. So skepticism it is.
  • Posted on: 07/29/2020

    Will Amazon become the go-to place to buy face masks?

    Masks are now a staple for every household -- every household -- even if some choose not to participate. The ubiquity of demand and the reluctance of some to visit stores makes Amazon the perfect alternative. Who else has this kind of reach into every household?
  • Posted on: 07/27/2020

    Are boycotts becoming bigger risks?

    There's a higher risk for boycotts and there is a higher potential reward for newfound support. Works both ways when a company's position on some social issue becomes known. The wallet as a ballot box has officially arrived. It has been that way for some time on the donation side. Now it's in play at the consumer level.
  • Posted on: 07/27/2020

    Will COVID-19 bludgeon Halloween sales?

    In what may be viewed as an odd twist in logic, I think spending in the Halloween time frame will be up. Some very Halloween-specific product may suffer, but people are going to be in the mood for some levity and Halloween has become a great excuse for a "party." Imagine the fun and creativity in coming up with Halloween masks. It's already a time for mask wearing! Plus a late Prime Day will have kicked off holiday spending as retailers simply have to figure out how to spread November/December sales volume out over a wider window. Color Halloween green!
  • Posted on: 07/24/2020

    Has retail permanently downsized?

    This all feels a lot more like "shrink and shift" than "bounce and return." fewer physical stores, fewer malls, less square footage, more ecomm, more fulfillment, more last mile, more automation and efficiency = fewer overall retail jobs.
  • Posted on: 07/23/2020

    Best Buy connects strong sales to frontline worker performance

    Let's remember that Best Buy has spent years developing their staff and store culture to the level it is today. This was not a C-19 catch up strategy. They were in a stronger competitive position before C-19, and are now stronger than ever. They invested in people and training and culture. And their brand promise and relevance now reflects that very worthy investment.
  • Posted on: 07/22/2020

    It is a different year. Walmart is closing on Thanksgiving.

    This is brave, level-headed, clear thinking action. It's a tilt of the earth's axis stuff. It's also a very pragmatic recognition that there is no way that the shopping density of that day could be handled safely. So let's take a deep breath, give everybody a much needed day off, and get on with the planning for how to handle an extended holiday shopping season. The season now starts with Prime Day, then Halloween, then Singles Day (11/11). Thank you Black Friday. We had some great times together.
  • Posted on: 07/21/2020

    Will wholesaling change L.L.Bean for the better?

    This is a positive move for L.L.Bean. They picked retailers that have a brand promise consistent with their own. In a wobbly market, they are moving forward in a focused and prudent manner in an attempt to reach more customers. They are being focused and disciplined. Lots of retailers and brands could be taking notes.
  • Posted on: 07/20/2020

    Why does it take a crisis for retailers to get innovative?

    Pain. The pain of change has to be less than the pain of staying the course. Numbness. A total lack of the ability to feel pain or see it coming. Retail, and especially apparel, can sometimes have a one word definition ... change. So there has to be a mechanism for understanding and probing for and testing for change. Risk is not an off/on switch. It's measured. It's gradual. It's also manageable if it's set up to be manageable. Risk can be a retailer's best friend. It's a differentiator. So it's not about avoiding risk, it's about embracing it and managing it. The right amount at the right time in the right dosage.
  • Posted on: 07/17/2020

    Struggling retailers lay off workers and pay millions in executive bonuses

    I was once president of a licensed business, a division of a larger corporation. We lost the license. We paid the STAFF retention bonuses so we could transition the business to the new license holder as professionally as possible. 100 percent of the staff stayed until their planned exit date.
  • Posted on: 07/16/2020

    How murky has COVID-19 made retail data?

    I wrote a short article in January of this year about "probabilities and possibilities." It was before I had heard the first mention of COVID-19. A mere six months ago there was a world of pretty comfortable probabilities that would give the business some level of predictability. Last year and last week data gave some pretty good bedrock information. Then you could crank in current market trend dynamics and project (guess) at some possibilities that made sense for your business. Now in mid-2020, many of the probabilities of the business are gone. Even for basic product that might not experience much design change, what's the demand going to be? How much of x, y and z did I already buy for the holiday season? I should probably reduce those quantities, but by how much? Spring 2021...? Total coin toss. And now it looks like I have to make different assumptions based on region. I can use one set of assumptions for the Northeast, and a whole different set of assumptions for the South. A resilient and responsive and flexible supply chain has never been more important.
  • Posted on: 07/15/2020

    Are subscriptions a winning strategy to get through the pandemic?

    Subscription services for replenishment and replacement products make enormous sense. Knowns + predictability. But for those product categories prone to high return rates it seems they walk a razors edge when it comes to profitability. Lack of predictability + handling costs. I think they will prosper in the long run, but some categories are going to have a longer learning curve than others.

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