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: 02/25/2020

    Was Burger King smart to showcase moldy Whoppers?

    My polite question would be, "What were they thinking?" How about "...and here is what your new car will look like after 100,000 miles..."? Or "Here are your new shoes after a season or two. Don't those scuffs impart a beautiful patina?" I'm all for transparency, but there is also such a thing as forever imagery -- very forever.
  • Posted on: 02/24/2020

    Should grocers just say ‘no’ to big CPG brands when it comes to shelf decisions?

    This reminds me a lot of gross margin support deals in the apparel business. They kind of made sense in the beginning. They were an insurance policy against a bad buy or a bad season. If the product turned out to be off-trend, the brand/wholesaler wrote a check to get the retailer's margin back up to an agreed to level. Margin deals became pervasive -- table stakes. And buyers bought the safest "deal" rather than the best product. And then the brands figured out that if they were going to be paying for the markdowns, they'd play it safe on product too. Risk aversion has given us a lot of undifferentiated product, along with race-to-the-bottom pricing. That's not customer-centric thinking. The best "deal" for everybody is actually offering the customer the product they really want. The retailer at some point has to differentiate between being a landlord or a merchant.
  • Posted on: 02/21/2020

    What does it take to make collaboration work within organizations?

    I think the most important component is one not mentioned. Patience. Collaboration is not a natural process that people quickly assimilate into. People come to the process with different backgrounds, priorities, opinions, and agendas. Left brain and right brain. Things don't naturally mesh quickly. Collaboration also requires compromise, which also does not happen quickly or easily. Collaboration is a learning process for everybody involved, and that happens at very different rates, ranging from quickly to never. The article talks through several key ingredients, but the original premise that it doesn't happen enough is because it's really, really difficult.
  • Posted on: 02/20/2020

    Consumers hate paying for shipping more than just about anything

    I want it cheap! I want it fast! I want this super fast delivery to be free! Because it's super important that I get my new socks tomorrow. Oh, and I want all of this to be eco-friendly. Actually--cheap, fast and free is good. All the green stuff can wait. Mother Nature know how important my new socks are.
  • Posted on: 02/19/2020

    Will store associates become the ultimate personalization tool at retail?

    Associates "supported, trained and enabled by the retailer." Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes! And how appropriate that the picture has an associate wielding a tablet. My recent visits to both Home Depot and J.Crew resulted in fast and efficient shopping -- and buying -- excursions thanks to informed associates. Informed, that is, after grabbing their phone or tablet for some quick homework. And I hope AI can start to have a different definition. There was nothing tricky or artificial about my questions or the answers they were able to provide. It wasn't Artificial Intelligence that saved the day. It was Accessible Information. I may or may not have been able to find it myself, but the associate drilled right to it. Accessible Information. Efficient. Real. Fast.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Walmart’s Christmas wasn’t humbug, but it was less merry than expected

    And let's not forget 11/11. Not a small deal and only going to get bigger. And right as Black Friday starts to heat up.
  • Posted on: 02/18/2020

    Walmart’s Christmas wasn’t humbug, but it was less merry than expected

    I made it a point to shop Walmart three times between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Each time I found the apparel assortments to be OK/good. But nothing memorable. Walmart assortments tend to be very straightforward. Classification- and item-driven. No real attempt at storytelling. Risk averse. That was an acceptable strategy for a couple of decades. But even Walmart at this point would benefit from a slightly higher level of novelty. If shopping Walmart has the same level of emotion, the same level of surprise and delight, as shopping on your phone, then the phone gradually takes over from the car keys.
  • Posted on: 02/14/2020

    Is it time for retailers to move beyond fulfillment and on to experience?

    What's the word that captures the concept: "Retail is a helluva lot more complicated than it used to be!"? And we are just now at the point where customers are leading us? I've long thought in terms of the 5 Rs. Right product, right price, right place, right time, right quantity. There were fewer moving parts a decade ago, but it still works today. Place used to mean "store." Now it's phone or tablet or store -- or front door. Time used to be "when I can get to the store." Now it's today or tomorrow -- at my front door. The customer always decided what was the right product, and always will. Price is always going to be a combination of competition, customer validation, and unique brand value-add -- or lack thereof. So I like 5R retail. There is a lot of wiggle room for shifting dynamics.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2020

    Will technology even the last-mile playing field with Amazon?

    This conversation pretty quickly boils down to speed and accuracy. First in developing the right product at the right place at the right time, and then on last mile execution. So premium levels of all facets of digital, tech and machine learning are going to separate the winners from the rest of the pack. But it's more complicated than, "there's an app for that." How we humans embrace and utilize the tools becomes the final differentiator.
  • Posted on: 02/12/2020

    New Vans store designed as an homage to LA’s skate history

    Storytelling! Not just about product, but about community and lifestyle. It's a genuine conversation with real people that have a lifestyle and a mindset all their own. It's not just "stuff." Curated. Focused. Doesn't pretend to be for everybody. You can relate -- or not. Or just be curious. Specialty stores are supposed to be just that -- special.
  • Posted on: 02/11/2020

    Brandless halts operations. What went wrong?

    Brandless might have oversimplified the idea, and overestimated the speed of embrace. I'm going to say the idea already existed and works phenomenally. It's called Kirkland. Kirkland stands for impeccable quality and amazing value, no matter what product category it's used in. A simple store label that evolved into a brand with a very simple brand promise. But how many years did that take?
  • Posted on: 02/10/2020

    H-E-B gives $100 bills to all its employees for top grocer ranking

    What a great message to the team -- about the team. The operative word being TEAM. Look at how they responded! And how great is it that the celebration appears to be organic, and not a premeditated PR stunt? Individual pride is one thing, but imagine how rare it is to give 120,000 people pride in being part of a great performance.
  • Posted on: 02/07/2020

    What does it take to earn the trust of consumers?

    Trust is just now "emerging" as a key lever in brand loyalty? "Quality" is eighth? No mention of "authentic value"? No mention of the product I actually buy in the three areas that hold opportunity to win trust? I thought trust and loyalty could each be part of the definition of the other. Can't have one without the other. You lose one and you lose the other. Everything on the list makes sense, but I am struck by what is not on the list.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2020

    Should retailers brag about doing good?

    There are brands whose very brand promise is built around some do-good initiative. And therefore their strategy and tactics will shine a light on those attributes and goals. That's not bragging. That's just good execution. The transparency demanded by today's market will ultimately expose any lack of authenticity. And I guess it's inevitable that some people will view honesty and authenticity as bragging and inappropriate. That's a strong incentive to keep it real.
  • Posted on: 02/06/2020

    Crate and Barrel marries human expertise with tech advances in a new concept store

    This sounds perfectly framed as "tech-enabled/service focused." How do I navigate from my problem to idea to the specifics of a solution? 3-D renderings become the "fitting room" for home furnishings where the customer can look at multiple options and make a much more informed decision than just imagining. This is a perfect example of tech raising the bar for exploring options while shopping and making more informed, and therefore more comfortable, buying decisions on big ticket items.

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