Plan to Succeed
Merchandise planning is the core of retailing, where multi-million dollar decisions are made on a daily basis in a diverse organization structure. Product selection, availability and pricing remain the heart of retail business, however, accuracy of procurement and placement, and consistency of best-practice execution, have never been more urgent. Gartner recently predicted that by 2024, Tier 1 retailers in North America and Europe will reduce inventory carrying costs by 30%, dramatically improving free cash flow for digital investment, while revamping balance sheets. Much of this reduction will be effected in seasonal, short life cycle and apparel categories where manual processes and gut feel no longer are enough.
Recently, the impact of the global pandemic COVID-19 has accelerated many digitalization trends and exposed deficiencies in processes and systems, highlighting the need for preparedness and resilience. As retailers navigate in the new post-COVID-19 marketplace, even a slight improvement obtained from the merchandising processes of selection, distribution and pricing of short life cycle products can have a positive impact on sales, margin and inventory turnover. Key to retail differentiation is the expansion of assortment planning, no longer limited to pre-period or preseason planning, also serving as an informational hub to support in-season analysis and execution. Customers’ expectations of a unified retail commerce experience continue to challenge multichannel retailers as they pursue digital business transformation.
Digital Business Transformation
Digital business transformation in the retail industry includes the usage of cloud, mobility, social engagement, mixed reality, algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) to connect and capitalize on existing selling channels. Taking advantage of the digitalized store base, in conjunction with diverse touch-points, is critical for a retail experience that delights customers, but this requires a significant refinement of the assortments offered across touch-points, as well as quality execution. Big data, both historical and near real time, combined with advanced analytics and algorithmic approaches, is required to create store-specific assortments that are aligned to specific customer behavior segments.
Gartner clients can learn read Market Guide for Retail Assortment Management Applications: Short Life Cycle Products to learn more about these applications and technology providers in the market.