• Joanne Neidorf

In-Season and Post-Season Activity Ownership: Results From Our Survey

Merchant Insight Consulting conducted an online survey to gather input from individuals with meaningful experience with the Merchant and Planning functions in a wide variety of non-grocery retail formats in order to establish where there is consensus - and where there is variance - regarding who typically owns particular merchandising activities and where collaboration between Merchants and Planners is most critical in today's retail organizations.

For a recap of the pre-season activities, see the previous posting. The next survey section asked about the assignment of responsibility for in-season activities, plus post-season analysis:

  • Reviewing and reporting on weekly business performance

  • Re-forecasting and reviewing Open to Buy (OTB)

  • Planning and executing sales activities to react to business (e.g., marketing, promotions, events)

  • Planning and executing price changes to react to business (e.g., permanent markdowns)

  • Managing DC to channel/store replenishment

  • Re-ordering replenishment goods from suppliers/vendors

  • Ordering/re-ordering (chasing) fashion goods from suppliers/vendors based on sales

  • Negotiating with suppliers/vendors to modify or cancel existing orders

  • Communicating visual guidelines to channels (digital and stores)

  • Communicating product information to channels (digital and stores)

  • Communicating receipt and inventory information to channels (digital and stores)

  • Communicating pricing and markdown information to channels (digital and stores)

  • Communicating promotions and special events to channels (digital and stores)

  • Conducting post-season analysis

According to respondents, Merchants are most likely to have primary responsibility for two activities in-season... both of which revolve around communication to the channels (digital and stores):

The Planner, however, is most likely to have primary responsibility for a wider range of In- and Post-Season activities:

Overall, respondents give more variable responses on who has primary responsibility for a larger number of In-Season activities versus the Pre-Season assessment.

There are four areas where respondents "lean" towards the Merchant for assignment of responsibility:

  • Modifying POs (64% give this responsibility to the Merchant)

  • Communicating to the channels on promotions and special events (62%)

  • Planning and executing sales-driving activities like promotions and special events (60%)

  • "Chasing" fashion good orders/re-orders in-season (60%)

Further, results indicate a slight preference for Planners to be responsible for re-ordering replenishment goods from suppliers (60%)

It is relatively easy to imagine why there is not as strong a consensus on who typically "owns" these activities as it is possible to see logical reasons for different groupings. For instance, one retailer may decide that ALL communication with the channels should flow through one function, while another retailer may want either the Merchant or the Planner responsible for the communication depending on the subject matter and who is the "expert" on that topic.

Or, a retailer may want ALL orders - whether they are for replenishment goods or fashion items - to be the responsibility of either the Merchant or the Planner, while another is happy to let each function manage ordering a different type of product as long as they remain in sync on what the total on-order and inventory picture looks like.

Finally, there is one last in-season activity where respondents are close to evenly split on who has primary ownership: Reviewing and reporting on business performance.

Based on experience in the industry and discussions with Planners and Merchants, we believe that it was likely quite difficult to make a binary choice between assigning this to the Merchant or Planner; ownership of this core in-season activity is not always clear-cut. Merchants and Planners must work together to understand what is happening in their business, develop action plans to react to their business, and communicate the results to others throughout the organization.

It is also telling that this in-season activity has one of the highest collaboration scores, with 69% of respondents saying that collaboration must be high or extremely high/critical for this activity. We will look more at collaboration scores in future postings.

To request a copy of the full survey report, please contact us at info@merchant-insight.com