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  • Joanne Neidorf

Three Insights From Our Survey on Merchant and Planner Responsibilities and Collaboration

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 survey presented a list of pre-season, in-season and post-season activities and asked respondents to assign primary responsibility for each to either the Merchant, the Planner or another role. The respondents were then asked to rate the level of collaboration between the Merchant and Planner on these same activities.

Insight 1:

Little collaboration is required for executional activities like:

  • Communicating information to the channels (digital and stores):

  • Communicating product information (86% rated as No or Low collaboration required)

  • Communicating visual guidelines (81%)

  • Communicating receipt/inventory information (78%)

  • Communicating special event/promo information (67%)


  • Placing Purchase Orders (POs) (77% rated as No or Low collaboration required)

  • Tracking and managing inbound POs (73%)

  • Managing DC to store replenishment (69%)

It is likely that once the decisions have been made and the guidelines set, the work can be handled by either the Merchant or Planner without a great deal of additional consultation and collaboration required.

It's also important to remember that while the Merchant and Planner should stay tightly linked and develop a strong partnership to run their business together, this does NOT mean that both are equally involved in all activities. It's far more important to agree on what will be done independently and with minimal collaboration as well as where more intense collaboration is required.

Insight 2:

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

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.

Insight 3:

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

Those who are currently Merchants or Planners put more emphasis on In- and Post-Season collaboration vs. Pre-Season collaboration. 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. This finding highlights the need for all Managers to discuss their expectations with their Merchants and Planners to be sure collaboration and alignment are happening at the right level for each activity and at each phase of the season.

To request a copy of the full survey report, please contact us at

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