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: 07/01/2022

    Should more retailers aim for their customers’ funny bones?

    Consumers develop a relationship with a brand through a process that is as much, if not more, about emotions as it is about logic. And a brand with a sense of humor is definitely trying to tap into that emotional opportunity. Humor can be a differentiator. That's a big deal. Duluth is a great example. I'd say a fair amount of their success is due to their fun, quirky ads. Having said that, can humor be data driven? Sure, just like fashion can be data driven. Through some mysterious and complicated process that blends data and design, logic and emotion.
  • Posted on: 06/30/2022

    Will consumers become even more frugal post-pandemic?

    I'm thinking more frugal. Buckets and buckets of stimulus dollars and post pandemic relief gave us a spending spree. At some point, the new uncertainty and unpredictability of the future, coupled with a recession of some level, will lead to some belt tightening.
  • Posted on: 06/30/2022

    Should investors be worried after RH lowered its forecast for the second time this month?

    Yes, RH investors should be concerned -- short term. RH is a couple steps removed from IKEA when it comes to home furnishings, so if consumer spending is contracting at that level then that's a pretty big red flag. Will RH customers spend now at a lower tier, or will they defer their spending until things bounce back?
  • Posted on: 06/28/2022

    ThredUP asks consumers to boycott Shein’s pop-up shop

    Compare and contrast is the whole premise of shopping. ThredUP is simply taking shopping to a new level. ThredUP wants to sell "think secondhand first" as their primary brand promise. So there are a whole bunch of brands that they are inviting themselves to be compared to. Shein is providing them with a very handy placeholder for all of those other brands.
  • Posted on: 06/28/2022

    Retailers tell their customers to keep their returns

    Where was all this math when the word "free" started to be thrown around with such reckless abandon? I almost want to dust off "race-to-the-bottom" terminology.
  • Posted on: 06/27/2022

    Are outsized private label gains in grocery a foregone conclusion?

    The allure of brands is not going to dissipate quickly. Billions are spent building and supporting national brands. But with the kind of inflationary pressure we now have, some level of drift to owned labels is inevitable. I myself am experimenting and I'm pleasantly surprised with the quality, taste and texture of the store brands I'm buying. And these early successes are giving me great comfort in testing several store products. The box or can is not as important as the quality and value of the contents.
  • Posted on: 06/24/2022

    Will a new rewards program prove Bed Bath & Beyond’s critics wrong?

    I've watched Bed Bath & Beyond evolve from an over-assorted mess to a store with more edited and focused offerings. Overall presentation and signage is much improved. Yes, it's very unfortunate that they experienced supply chain problems. And yes, the cash burn sounds problematic. But focused assortments with the right level of owned brands is absolutely the way to go. The rewards program sounds comprehensive, but the equation still starts with the right product offering.
  • Posted on: 06/23/2022

    Will ‘coopetition’ enable retailers to profitably deliver online orders?

    Strong brands with differentiated product should welcome this idea with open arms. The efficiencies outlined in the article are exactly what is needed on every level. Retailer, customer and planet. Huge credit goes to AEO for their leadership position here.
  • Posted on: 06/22/2022

    Will Deal Days help Target clear its inventory?

    Markdowns, clearance sales, and vendor/factory cancellations all deal with the back end of the problem -- inventory owned today. What's missing is the conversation about why the problem is as bad as it is. A bad miscalculation on demand coupled with a bad decision on buying too much "just in case" inventory due to chaos in the supply chain. And now retailers are cracking the whip at the supply chain all over again. Now we'll have renewed chaos while factories are processing fall and holiday product. No shot at anything resembling normal until spring 2023 -- at best. Oy.
  • Posted on: 06/21/2022

    Are retailers and consumers misaligned on trust?

    It seems like more and more businesses and brands are putting themselves in a position of over promising on their brand promise. And therefore putting themselves in a position to disappoint. Which creates a trust gap. A simple brand promise focuses on attitude and aesthetic, quality and value. A more complicated brand promise treads into social and political issues. Social and political issues will pretty quickly start to alienate some people who would otherwise be supporters of the brand. Brands and businesses need to remember that there is an economic reason for their existence. That economic reason has to be delivered on first and foremost in order for the business to take on a role in any social or political arenas.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2022

    Kroger CEO says customers are ‘rethinking their shopping’ habits

    Nobody wanted it to happen this way, but this is a huge opportunity for grocers to gain traction with their proprietary labels. They can pleasantly surprise with quality, taste and value, or possibly disappoint. We shall see how sticky and long term this shift to proprietary labels will be.
  • Posted on: 06/20/2022

    Will a U.S. factory transform Lego’s supply chain and eco-footprint?

    It's so simple. “Our factories are located close to our biggest markets, which shortens the distance our products have to travel." Not many product categories have the eco-system to replicate this, but localized manufacturing of localized products seems to make abundant sense.
  • Posted on: 06/17/2022

    Does Amazon need a great Prime Day now more than ever?

    The pressure for profitability has to be as great, if not greater, than the pressure for growth. With Amazon's current market share, is growth really the priority? Or is it past due to demonstrate retail profitability (vs. advertising profitability)? Macy's showed us growth for a while, with a bunch of one day sales. And it changed the character of their business. If I were Amazon, I'd be more concerned with the status of their proprietary labels. Where is Amazon's version of Kirkland? The brand that is a go-to for quality and value? How does Amazon use these highly visible Prime Days to build the profile of their owned brands?
  • Posted on: 06/16/2022

    Should analytics drive category planning?

    The answer here depends highly on the inherent level of change that is built into any given product or category. Center aisle grocery products may not have a lot of seasonal "design" or content changes. Demand may change with the seasons, but the product itself remains the same. In apparel, the overwhelming portion of the SKUs are changing -- every season, every year. This year's data on non-seasonal basics will be abundantly useful in projecting next year. This year's fashion data will provide little guidance on next year's fashion. So yes, a lot of intuition will be involved. Retail involves tiered levels of seasonality, complexity and, therefore, tiered levels of predictability. The hard part is balancing analytics and intuition up and down the ladder.
  • Posted on: 06/14/2022

    Has online grocery shopping hit its sales ceiling?

    For the many years I was hostage to the crazy hours of commuting, working and family life, delivery would have been a life saver. That was then. And then the pandemic completely changed the shopping dynamic for everybody -- temporarily. People have recalibrated how they think about grocery shopping, slightly. I think grocers have a huge opportunity to drive in-store shopping with how they handle fresh fruit/vegetables and meat. Those are products people like to peruse and choose. Canned soup and packaged pasta don't need the same level of inspection. For people who consider grocery shopping to be drudgery, online shopping is a great fix. For those who view it as a discovery process, in-store shopping will remain the choice.

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