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Sally Furrer: Merchandising From a Clean Slate — Part One

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For the past two years most retailers have been in a crisis mode. But now it is time to look to the future and begin focusing on growing revenue and pursuing opportunities. To do so, step back from your normal inventory activities (like re-ordering top sellers and doing markdowns) to really think how you would expand your client base through merchandising. If you were to magically sell every SKU in your store tomorrow, what would you replace them with?

While you’re never likely going to have a totally clean slate, you CAN take the first step of creating a merchandising strategy, and, later a merchandise plan.

Many people would say that they already have a merchandising strategy. However, filling in top sellers or having an open to buy is not a strategy. A merchandising strategy defines a company’s future plan in terms of what you want your assortments to be, regardless of what you currently have in stock. A merchandise plan then articulates your desired outcome by product groups — revenue, gross profit percentage and dollars and inventory turn. Tactical actions are necessary for the day-to-day running of a store or to stay afloat, but strategic actions are the ones that ensure a thriving future.

Now that you are in a strategic frame of mind, start asking yourself questions about the vision for your store, and the merchandise required to get you there:

Many people would say that they already have a merchandising strategy. However, filling in top sellers or having an open to buy is not a strategy.

• Do I want to expand my bridal clientele? 
• Do I want to attract the female self-purchaser? 
• Do I want to resonate with the Gen X and Y consumer?
• Do I want to carry sterling silver, vermeil or even accessories? 
• Do I want to reduce your margin percent, but increase my margin dollars?
• Do I want to adjust the percentage of designer inventory versus in-house branded?

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Once you have articulated your strategic goals, make sure they are SMART, an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-dated.

For example, a non-SMART goal might be: “Expand my bridal business.”

SMART goals could be:

• “Expand my bridal business by 30 percent over last fiscal year by creating three in-store branded collections by March 2011, targeted to entry level price points of $1,000.”

Or:

• “To capture lost sales, reduce the margin percent of loose diamonds to 43 percent, with an increase in revenue of 27 percent over last fiscal year, thereby increasing gross margin dollars by $20,000. By Dec. 31, 2011.”

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Once you have your strategic goals established, step back again and compare them to your overall metric goals — revenue growth, margin percent and dollars, inventory turn — and ask yourself, “Will these goals get me there?” If you are comfortable that they will, then you will be ready to flow them into your merchandise plan (which we will discuss next month.)

A carefully crafted strategy will deliver revenue growth and profits and secure your competitive advantage. It is the difference between having a vague idea where something is versus using GPS to get there.

About the Author

Sally Furrer is a merchandising consultant with 20-plus years of jewelry industry experience. E-mail her at [email protected], or visit http://sallyfurrerconsulting.com. Meet Sally at The SMART Jewelry Show, at Chicago’s Navy Pier from April 21-23, 2012. To register, go to smartjewelryshow.com/register

This is part one of a two-part series. This story originally appeared in the February 2011 edition of INSTORE

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