• Joanne Neidorf

Merchant / Planner Responsibilities and Collaboration - Survey Results: Differences by Type

Merchant Insight Consulting recently 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.

We recapped the overall rating of collaboration importance in an earlier blog post. Here we want to highlight some interesting patterns in the relative rating of collaboration importance that emerged based on analysis of the experience and current role of respondents.

Key Takeaways:

  • Higher collaboration scores from respondents with Department Store experience

  • Current Merchants and Planners give even higher collaboration scores than the entire respondent pool on five "high collaboration" activities

  • Current Merchants and Planners put more emphasis on In- and Post-Season collaboration versus Pre-Season collaboration

  • There is a mismatch between where current Merchants and Planners and current Managers in these functions believe collaboration is most important

Respondents who report Department Stores experience (sometimes combined with experience from other retail formats) were much more likely to give higher collaboration scores across nearly ALL activities. One possible explanation of this is that Department Stores have been at the forefront of developing the Merchant/Planner partnership and collaboration model for decades. This makes respondents with experience in this format more likely to report that collaboration is required than respondents without Department Store experience.

Another interesting variance among respondents is that those who report that they are CURRENTLY a Merchant or a Planner (versus reporting current role as an assistant, a manager, an advisor/consultant, or other) were more likely to give higher collaboration scores on the activities with high scores overall.

This could be an indication that those currently doing these jobs are acutely aware of how important their input is to their partner, or how much they require input from their counterpart in order to make the best possible decisions.

Those who are currently Merchants or Planners also put more emphasis on In- and Post-Season collaboration vs. Pre-Season collaboration when you compare the average collaboration scores. Average collaboration scores assume that No collaboration = 0, Low collaboration = 1, Medium collaboration = 2, High collaboration = 3 and Extremely High/Critical collaboration = 4. Current Merchants and Planners give the Pre-Season activities an average of 1.58 and the In-and Post-Season activities an average of 1.81.

However, this is a reverse of what their Managers expect. Managers and above report that they expect MORE collaboration than the Merchants and Planners indicate is required for pre-season activities like:

  • Finding new suppliers

  • Developing new product

  • Negotiating with suppliers

  • Placing purchase orders

And once you get into the season, Managers and above seem to expect much LESS collaboration than Merchants and Planners indicate is required for:

  • Re-ordering replenishment goods from suppliers

  • Chasing (ordering/re-ordering) fashion goods from suppliers

  • Negotiating to modify POs

This is an interesting difference as it seems to indicate a real disconnect between Manager expectations and where the Merchants and Planners may be focusing their collaboration energy and efforts. The Managers' emphasis on more pre-season collaboration could be explained by their belief that collaboration and alignment up-front reduces the need for more intense collaboration downstream.

What Can You Do With This Information?

All Managers should be discussing their expectations with their Merchants and Planners to be sure collaboration and alignment are happening at the right level for each activity and for each phase of the season.

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