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: 09/29/2022

    Will Amazon’s $1 billion payroll investment work to keep front lines staffed?

    Amazon doesn't exist without the ability to execute on its logistics brand promise. So there was little choice here. It's nice to have deep pockets.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2022

    Is Ralph Lauren positioned to accelerate its growth?

    I worked in a licensed Ralph Lauren business many years ago. So I am thrilled to read this update. The fact that it is experiencing a growing perception of being a luxury brand, AND also having the powerful pillars comprise 70 percent of the business is an amazing one/two punch for both growth AND profitability.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2022

    Amazon is not letting Walmart and Target get a head start on Christmas

    Holiday promotional creep was going to happen under any set of circumstances. But this year the combination of high inventories and the recession/inflation equation really complicate things. Can sales outpace inflation? Or maybe the bigger question is about margins. Given the need to chew through all this inventory, do margins have any shot at exceeding last year? Or is it just a question of how much lower they will be this year for many retailers? Retailers who can report flat to improved sales with flat to improved margins will have performed admirably.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2022

    Is the customer really the most important thing in retail?

    Yes, of course retail is all about "customer-first." But the quick qualifying filter to add is "how?" Differentiated product that establishes a moat? Commodity product but with emphasis on price and value? Speed of delivery? A differentiating value-adding service? The next filter might be "when?" Meaning, what are the priorities to best serve the customer today and tomorrow? How does that change a year out? Three years out? I think the customer is always at the center of the decision making process, but it's about managing the Rubik's Cube of variables involved in staying ahead in the highly competitive and evolving world we live in today.
  • Posted on: 09/26/2022

    Rivals take notice as ads account for five percent of Amazon’s retail revenues

    It has taken Amazon how many years and how much spending to hit that 5 percent level? The number of eyeballs surfing on Amazon at any given moment is staggering, dwarfing the count of the nearest competitor. And other retailers aspire to the same level of advertising revenue? Doesn't seem even remotely plausible.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2022

    Did Target just move Black Friday up to October 7?

    Boom. From Thanksgiving to Halloween to the beginning of October. Can Labor Day be far behind? Black Friday has been more of a value driven marketing handle than a specific day for a while now. When we find out about an October Prime Day that should make it all official.
  • Posted on: 09/22/2022

    Did Walmart just guarantee it will be the easiest place to shop for Christmas?

    Looks like Walmart is going to jump through hoops in order to deliver on its brand promise of maximizing value, and convenience, for its customers. Delivering on that promise looks very different than it did a short while ago. It also sounds really expensive. Walmart is clearly paying very close attention to the operational lessons that Target is providing. And they clearly intend to cede no ground to anybody.
  • Posted on: 09/21/2022

    Gap is cutting 500 corporate jobs as it searches for a CEO and answers

    This story is not so much about job cuts as it is about the implosion of a brand. The YZY deal was a Hail Mary event that went south -- big time. And now there's no place to hide. No visible new strategy to pull out of the tail spin. There were celebrity partners that could have worked. Signing up a megalomaniac known to sow chaos was ill conceived.
  • Posted on: 09/20/2022

    JCPenney’s beauty makeover is going chain-wide

    Sounds like an "A" for effort initiative. But the apparel assortments and the in-store presentation and storytelling have miles and miles to go. Recent additions such as Frye hint at an evolving future, but it's baby step after baby step. JCP has a deep well of brands that are available to them. They are arguably second tier brands, but hey, that's the hand they are playing at the moment. Where is the "store of the future" prototype? Where is the three year capital investment plan to pull it all off?
  • Posted on: 09/19/2022

    Will Patagonia’s ownership help save the planet and its retail business?

    Tax avoidance is as American as apple pie, so I hardly view that as a criticism. It just doesn't happen on this scale very often. And avoiding taxes in order to structure a mechanism to flow $100 million a year into climate, sustainability and environmental issues sounds like a great plan.
  • Posted on: 09/16/2022

    Where is Starbucks’ NFT odyssey heading?

    Given the issues surrounding the minting of NFTs, it's odd that Starbucks would take this path. They even avoid calling them NFTs. The whole idea of "journey stamps" and elevated rewards sounds pretty good. Why muddy the waters with NFTs? What is the loyalty going to be tethered to? The coffee? The food? The new elevated rewards? The NFTs? The entirety of the experience? The NFTs sound like toys in search of a sandbox to play in.
  • Posted on: 09/15/2022

    Will on-the-job training become a new norm in CEO succession planning?

    Not to split hairs, but I much prefer OTJ "learning" vs training. And immersion is the perfect way to be a student of how a business's moving parts mesh -- or don't mesh in some cases. The new CEO's ideas and plans will certainly have been vetted by the board. But the implementation and execution can always benefit from some deep inside understanding of the business. I can't help but think that Ron Johnson's big ideas for JCP would have been executed differently if there had been a deeper understanding of the role that coupons and discounting played in the business.
  • Posted on: 09/14/2022

    Walmart and other retailers are canceling billions of dollars in orders

    Sounds like the factories shot themselves in the foot when they extended order placement lead times. And then retailers piled on and magnified the problem by overbuying ... again. And are now further magnifying the problem with cancelations. The solution lies on shortening order placement lead times, not lengthening them. But then an order is an order. It's not cancellable ... period. The raw materials are ordered and the factory is locked and loaded. Factories rely on predictability and continuity in order to operate. Those words sound almost quaint these days. But that doesn't change the dynamics on the factory floor. Factories thought longer order lead times provided that predictability and continuity. It backfired. Retail figured out how to execute fashion and seasonal change while demand was fairly predictable. Throw in unpredictable demand change and the whole process collapses. How about retailers start with a DNA change and stop overbuying as a default mindset?
  • Posted on: 09/13/2022

    Should store associates handle customer service chats?

    Having in-store associates handle customer service calls sounds both smart and efficient. The retailer gets maximum productivity and the customer gets product specific input from the person in the best position to provide that insight. It would be fascinating to know the return rate on transactions that went through a store associate versus those transactions that didn't have the benefit of that input.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2022

    Kroger simplifies its budget private labels

    Smart move. Proliferation of choices is confusing and dilutes the ability for any of them to become meaningful. Kirkland at Costco is a powerful lesson in what one owned brand can accomplish. And Kroger still has plenty of opportunity for telling different brand stories in the other tiers.

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