• Joanne Neidorf

Pre-Season Activity Ownership: Results From Our Survey on Merchant and Planner Responsibilities

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.

The first question on the survey asked about primary responsibilities for pre-season activities:

  • Creating a strategic plan

  • Building the Merchandise Financial Plan (MFP)

  • Building an assortment plan

  • Analyzing and planning space (plan-o-gram, fixture fill)

  • Finding/identifying new suppliers/vendors

  • Developing new product

  • Negotiating with suppliers/vendors (costs, terms and conditions of purchase)

  • Selecting items to purchase

  • Determining order quantity

  • Placing purchase orders

  • Tracking and managing inbound purchase orders

  • Allocating product to selling channels/locations

According to our survey respondents, Merchants are most likely to have primary responsibility for six pre-season activities focused on finding, developing, selecting and negotiating for product as well as creating both strategic and assortment plans:

The Planner, on the other hand, is most likely to have primary responsibility for creating the Merchandise Financial Plan (MFP), determining how much to buy and then allocating that product to different channels and/or locations:

These results indicate a general consensus for each of these nine pre-season activities on whether the Merchant or Planner "owns" each. The limited responses that assigned ownership to a different role than either the Merchant or Planner likely reflect either a different organizational structure (like specific product development and/or sourcing roles, or allocators who sit outside the Planning function) or different definitions of what some of these activities encompass.

With other pre-season activities, however, we see more ambiguous and variable results:

Although responses indicate that Planning is somewhat more likely to own these two activities, there is no overwhelming consensus on this. In the case of Analyzing and Planning Space, this lack of consensus could be the result of several factors including:

  • Underdeveloped space planning overall

  • How respondents interpreted what was included in space planning (e.g., Macro space planning? Adjacencies? Fixture fill?)

  • Some organizations placing the responsibility outside of Merchandising altogether

In the case of Tracking and Managing Inbound Purchase Orders, assignment of ownership to the Planner or Merchant at any given retailer may depend on:

  • What system is used to track and manage purchase orders and who has access to that system

  • Who has primary responsibility for vendor negotiation and communication on issues that may arise with inbound Purchase Orders (e.g., to amend quantities, ship dates, to extend receipt windows, etc.)

  • When is the appropriate time to shift inventory management from the Merchant (who is likely to be responsible for selecting and ordering the item) to the Planner (who is likely to be responsible for managing the inventory once it is received)

Finally, there is the question of who has responsibility for placing Purchase Orders (POs). Our survey respondents lean slightly towards giving this responsibility to the Merchants (54%), but as with the previous activities, there is also a sizable group who indicate either the Planner or another role is responsible for this activity.

As with tracking and managing POs, determining who "owns" placing the purchase order is likely influenced by:

  • What system is used. For instance, is there a direct - or even automatic - link between whatever the Merchant uses to capture the information on the items they wish to purchase to a PO-generating system?

  • When is the appropriate time to shift inventory management from the Merchant to the Planner?

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

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