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: 01/22/2020

    Has BOPIS changed holiday selling?

    BOPIS has quickly emerged as a table stakes issue for retailers. Free-standing Target can have total vertical control over the process. But how is the mall going to accommodate this increasingly embraced shopping/buying feature? Obviously every store in the mall is not going to have its own kiosk of some kind. The re-invented mall experience has to figure out some new logistics.
  • Posted on: 01/21/2020

    Does convenience trump price for today’s consumer?

    Let's face it, everything is more convenient than it was five years ago. So of course the bar is raised. But saying convenience will outweigh price or preference is another thing. Five minutes on a mobile phone will satisfy most shoppers' first choice in a combination of price and convenience that works. Settling for a second choice product because of convenience feels very last year to me.
  • Posted on: 01/20/2020

    What does it take to create a risk-taking, innovating retail culture?

    "Safe" means known and comfortable. "Risk" means unknown and uncomfortable. Risk is a differentiator and therefore a brand's potential best friend. But it's managed risk. Risk that understands the boundaries of the brand promise and how to push those boundaries, not just blow through the guard rails. And risk has to understand the odds. Not all tests are going to have terrific outcomes. So KPIs have to recognize learning as much as (maybe more than?) positive outcomes. Risk requires a certain kind of patience, so that people and the organization have the necessary time to climb the inevitable learning curve. Change does become embedded just from being embraced by early adopters alone.
  • Posted on: 01/17/2020

    Are Gap Inc. and Old Navy better off together?

    The problem was never about Gap and Old Navy being "together" and the solution was never about "separation." The company did not have a balance sheet problem or operating efficiency problem. Nobody ever walked by a Gap store and said, "I don't think I'll shop there today. Their operating inefficiencies drive me crazy." The problem was relying on a decades old merchandising strategy. The customer that related to that strategy is now a parent or a grandparent. There is a whole new generation of shoppers that view the mall and the shopping experience differently. The Gap division never took a lot of product risks. Brilliant marketing drove the business. Today's environment requires some risk and cleverness and the Gap retreated into safe and comfortable. And promotional. They embraced department store thinking versus specialty store thinking. Separation was never going to solve any of that. So I am thrilled to hear that proposal has been shelved. Time to once again focus on content and how customers shop today versus a couple of decades ago.
  • Posted on: 01/16/2020

    What does Target’s Christmas miss mean?

    Based on the category breakdowns we may be seeing a growing comfort for e-commerce shopping in some areas versus a preference for brick-and-mortar shopping where actual fit and feel are important. That will be a market issue, not just a Target issue. So congratulations to Target for strong performance in areas where the customer gravitates to in-store shopping.
  • Posted on: 01/16/2020

    Burger King sets the dining mood with a ‘Whopperish’ aesthetic

    Uhmmm... OK, but it's still all about the burger. Sure update the stores. Absolutely. But my car is still hardwired for Five Guys or In-n-Out.
  • Posted on: 01/16/2020

    Did Trump’s phase one deal with China deliver the goods for retailers?

    This feels like a desperate grab for a good news headline in a highly charged political environment. It doesn't feel like it gives us all a molecule of additional predictability. No sigh of relief. This has not been a productive roller coaster ride, and a stable, good news outcome is nowhere near a given. Unless...
  • Posted on: 01/15/2020

    Is Amazon more friend or foe for digital start-ups?

    Is Amazon a competing retailer...or...a great marketing platform...or...a great third-party execution partner? It's very tough to look at Amazon's reach and not say, "I want a piece of that." I don't think it's an all-in move. I think it's part of a portfolio of initiatives to get a new business up and running. Eyes open!
  • Posted on: 01/15/2020

    Will Walmart become a fashion destination in 2020?

    There are several very different paths here. Yes, Walmart can be more fashionable in their stores. That is separate and distinct from acquiring or building a new brand online. Walmart gets no halo effect from Bonobos. I look no further than Primark or Target to see what's possible. Primark executes opening price point fashion brilliantly. It might not get featured in Vogue, but that was never the point. Accessible, current, on-trend fashion is the assignment. And it's a damn difficult assignment at that. Gap has proved that for years now. It's very difficult to strike the balance between safe basics and the right level of story-telling novelty and fashion. And it's not just executing the fashion. The harder part may be picking the customer to go after first. Boomer? Middle-aged? Gen X, Y, Z...? Target a current customer base? Attract a new customer base? The hollowing out of the boring middle creates an opportunity for Walmart. Pursuit of the grocery business will create the traffic. Now give the customer a reason to meander over to apparel.
  • Posted on: 01/14/2020

    Will ‘guests’ love Target even more as Circle members?

    How about that. Target is working on building actual emotional loyalty, not just engaging in a transactional quid pro quo. Turns out there's a difference between loyalty and rewards. It also means that Target doesn't automatically give away five points, or in effect turn their best customers into break-even customers at best. Reminds me of Costco, where a huge percentage (100 percent...?) of the annual profits are derived from membership fees. Target doesn't have the benefit of banking those kinds of fees.
  • Posted on: 01/13/2020

    Walmart U.S. CEO: Good retail jobs are much more than good pay

    Not to split hairs, but I would have said -- FIRSTLY, training and development is critical. It's not retention for retention's sake, it's retention for ROI ... everybody's ROI. I've always liked the query/response of "What happens if we spend all this money to train people and they leave? What happens if we DON'T spend the money and they stay?" It's not a platitude to say people are the biggest asset. Manage accordingly.
  • Posted on: 01/10/2020

    Will endless aisles and better supply chain management negate Amazon’s edge?

    As a retailer thinking ahead to the 2020 holiday season, I would not try to make endless aisle, or breadth of offering, a primary strategic weapon. I would opt instead for some kind of finite, or curated, aisle and absolutely be in stock on that more focused offering. Endless aisle AND guaranteed in-stock on overly broad assortments is a guaranteed in-season AND end-of-season inventory problem. It may take a holiday season or two to accumulate the data necessary to make the leap to endless aisle without experiencing the highly likely inventory problems. Better to perform brilliantly on what you do offer than risk poor performance on overly broad assortments.
  • Posted on: 01/09/2020

    Will ‘five pillars’ provide the foundation Bed Bath & Beyond needs to succeed?

    Sure they provide a strong foundation. But lots of retailers had a strong foundation and they failed to build (or evolve) the right structure on top of the foundation. Sears, J.C. Penney, Macy's -- they all had great foundations and blew it in varying degrees. Mark's track record suggests that he knows what to build on the strong foundation. I actually think it's great that he is not over promising. He rattled the cage pretty dramatically on day one and is now steadying the ship. Sounds healthy to me.
  • Posted on: 01/08/2020

    Does ‘selfish shopping’ justify post-holiday discounting?

    New? I've lived through a couple post-Christmas transitions and always thought it was the time to pick up whatever Santa might not have delivered. Because it was finally on sale. Only now, the deals pre-Christmas are so good that the selfish shopper can say "why wait?" I don't think the selfish shopper is the primary driver of post-Christmas business. I think it's the very tricky process of executing seasonal transition. How does the retailer sell down and out-of-winter product at the best possible margin and convert to climate-appropriate transitional product? We still have the 60 coldest days of the year ahead, so what are we converting to? And how does transition product in Boston differ from transition product in Miami? Deal-driven selfish shoppers will help clear fall/winter product, but the harder assignment is figuring out the transitional mix by latitude.
  • Posted on: 01/07/2020

    Will 3-D printing tech change the footwear industry?

    What's not to like? Personalization to the ultimate degree. Sustainable and eco-friendly to the ultimate degree. You can even say experiential if you can stand there and watch your very own totally unique pair of shoes being made. What a hoot!

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