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: 12/04/2019

    The holiday season promises many unhappy returns for retailers

    After all the time, effort and energy invested in making returns painless and "free," it's tough to say that retailers have anything to complain about. By now, retailers have the data on what categories or items have the highest probability of being returned. There must be a way of being smarter about marketing online, but promoting in-store purchases and returns. I read about the extrapolated math which says that by the year 2030 some massive percentage of sales will happen online (half?). It sounds like most retailers go belly-up with that percentage moving online. There is a disconnect somewhere. The lack of profitability and the projection of a massive share of the business moving online is very difficult to reconcile. Sounds like the use of the word "free" needs a lot of study.
  • Posted on: 12/03/2019

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Kohl’s vs. Macy’s

    No contest. Not even close. Macy's, hands down. I am overdosing on commercialism after Black-this and Cyber-that. A little holiday spirit is exactly what I needed to see and hear.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2019

    Why is Allbirds asking Amazon to do a better job ripping it off?

    I find Allbirds' response to be brilliant. Brilliant in its economy of both dollars and drama. A simple statement of truth -- and shame. Let the circumstances speak for themselves. Brand reinforcment for Allbirds and a much deserved ding for Amazon.
  • Posted on: 12/02/2019

    Will its ‘culture of recognition’ be a game winner for Dick’s Sporting Goods?

    I don't know if retail is any better or worse than other industries at recognition. I do know that it is necessary, important, critical, imperative that good performance be recognized and rewarded. The Instagram/Facebook world that we live in creates and then magnifies the opportunity to give that recognition. And I do not mean gold stars for participation. It's not hard to know when somebody has done a little extra or knocked it out of the park. The level of competition in today's market is intense. Broadcasting success stories is both a morale builder and a brand builder.
  • Posted on: 11/27/2019

    Big things are happening as Small Business Saturday turns 10

    "Something that is richer than the sum of the parts." Sounds like an "experience" to me. Rumor has it that's what customers are longing for.
  • Posted on: 11/26/2019

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Old Navy vs. T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods

    My vote goes to TJX Companies. At least there is a "'tis the season" feeling to it. The Old Navy spot just hits me as off somehow. The message of "just get more STUFF" and "RECEIVE" versus give, rubbed me the wrong way. I get it, they're retailers and it is that time of the year. And it's not about Norman Rockwell scenes all the time. I guess I just yearn for simpler times. Sometimes the crassness of the season rubs me the wrong way.
  • Posted on: 11/25/2019

    Private label foods need work

    Private labels are the perfect opportunity to delight the customer and create loyalty based on true love of product, not miles or points or some kind of discount. It's the opposite of race-to-the-bottom. It's race-to-be-BETTER — better in pricing AND better in quality. Yes, the retailer can go down in both quality and price, and many have. Costco showed us the way with Kirkland.
  • Posted on: 11/22/2019

    The RetailWire Christmas Commercial Challenge: Amazon vs. Etsy

    Both spots are fun, but I have to go with Amazon. The cuteness and cleverness of the talking and singing logos on the boxes is irresistible. The whole spot is rooted in family and the spirit of the holidays but is unmistakably Amazon. Turn the sound off and Amazon still communicates AMAZON and HOLIDAYS and how they are inextricably entwined. Kind of like we would have thought about the mall not so long ago. Hmmmmmm...
  • Posted on: 11/21/2019

    Kroger brings the farm closer to the table

    Sounds like a great idea at the concept level. And sounds really complicated at the execution level. As the center aisle CPG category migrates to e-commerce fulfillment, there is going to be space available in existing grocery stores. Enough space? Investment required? Glad to see a test in motion. "Fresh" may have a whole new definition.
  • Posted on: 11/21/2019

    Is Target killing department stores and specialty clothing chains?

    All of the recently announced numbers tell a simple story. Target is on a roll. Target is obviously taking market share from several mall retailers. So it would be interesting to know the difference (if any) in the performance of in-mall and off-mall Target locations. Is off-mall a primary advantage? It's just plain easier to get in and out of an off-mall location, and Target's big product umbrella makes it all the easier to be time efficient in one-stop shopping ... ? Or when a Target location is in-mall, do they suffer from the same declining traffic patterns? In-mall locations are on a level playing field from a location point of view, so do Target's better product and storytelling skills steal share from Gap and J.C. Penney? I suspect it's all of the above. Off-mall locations don't seem to be helping Kohl's. Turns out Target has been a good student of the evolving retail paradigm, and now they are the teacher.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2019

    Will a hack ruin Macy’s Christmas?

    This is an unfortunate development. My local Macy's is in a solid B mall and looks better recently than it has in the last couple years. Inventory levels seem to be in control. Presentation standards are very much improved, even if every fixture has a sale sign on top. Cash/wraps are manned. It looks like a very real effort at improving on the basics is in motion. A data breach is the last thing any retailer needs.
  • Posted on: 11/20/2019

    Should Santa be a loyalty program perk?

    There must have been a smarter way to have handled this. I would hope that access to Santa would be handled in some kind of level playing field manner. Offer some kind of "premium" package for loyal big spenders? Sure, why not? But Santa himself as a premium feature of the whole holiday experience? That's just not right. The price shouldn't be anything more drastic than the willingness to wait in line.
  • Posted on: 11/19/2019

    Are Americans ready for a DTC shopping holiday?

    No, we certainly did not need another shopping holiday. But since it looks like we are getting one, I'll think of it this way. 11/11 will be the giant monolithic "department store" event and DTC Friday will be the "specialty store" event. Black Friday isn't an event any longer. It's a season within a season. 11/11 will dwarf DTC Friday, but maybe there are brands that don't want to get lost in that maelstrom.
  • Posted on: 11/18/2019

    What will happen now that Five Below has gone above $5?

    "Extreme value" is the key. There is a big difference between escalating prices as a margin grab and offering items above $5 that still offer the "extreme value" that Five Below is famous for. If they are smart about this, it will enhance their value proposition, not damage it.
  • Posted on: 11/15/2019

    Walmart has a too much grocery problem

    Walmart has an "SOS" problem. "Stuff On Sale." And it's not that it's bad stuff or bad value. It's just presented as stuff. Seas of racks. No storytelling. Walmart is a very unemotional environment to shop in. And that worked fine for a long time. But now I think the bar is set a little higher. Macy's is working hard on their SOS problem. So is J.C. Penney. The good news for Walmart is that their grocery business gives them the traffic. Now how do they leverage that traffic? Walmart could also benefit from their own version of Kirkland. A proprietary brand with an unassailable price/quality profile. Maybe they have it and it's my blind spot. So -- back to storytelling. Walmart has an opportunity to trade up and attract department store customers. If department stores can't solve their SOS problem, Walmart can take a shot and win on price/value.

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