Retail is made up of the best of the arts and sciences, utilising left-brain and right-brain thinking. The left-brain houses logic, retail math, financial planning, managing OTB budget, depth and breadth calculations and cost risk analysis. Many planners may believe this is all that is needed for developing the perfect plan. However, balance is crucial. That is where the right brain comes in: creativity and visualisation of the perfect assortment, silhouettes, colour story, emotions driving purchases and customer sentiment. All of this is necessary for curating the ideal range with the financial plans to match.
Merchants often struggle to utilize the two points of view due to this separation within typically archaic planning approaches. This leads to a major disconnect between science and art, between numbers and the collection’s concept. Within the world of retail today, it is rare to find a cohesive space for both to come together in a practical and useful way. This presents a huge gap in the market and a refreshing approach to solving retail’s planning issues with an integrated environment.
A proactive strategy to win:
The current state of retail is challenging. Although, there can be a light at the end of the tunnel if thoughtful consideration is taken into understanding the needs of the business within a macro lens. Tough economic times create a massive opportunity to reevaluate processes and future improvements. Now is the time to take advantage, pursue better ways of working and move towards improving the bottom line. Retail will be left behind if it does not adapt to the pace of technological advances. Manual ways of working are no longer acceptable, and work needs to be done to determine a proactive strategy.
Reliable and accurate data is key within the world of retail planning. Having enhanced visibility of both data and the creative aspects’ look and feel, along with collaborative tools and processes will allow teams the valuable space they need to own their vital business decisions.
Currently retail is seeing massive overstock issues, leading to an abundance of markdowns, slow turns, and low margins. These poor sell-through rates will eventually lead to less newness available to the customer. In addition, working in this scattered manner leads to a loss of brand identity. Many brands’ assortments look the same, and the promotional space is extremely competitive.
The balance of art and science is in an integrated planning solution:
Integrated Planning is a better way to give retailers more control and insight, enhancing what they have today. Various systems utilised by different planning areas operate in silos, along with their associated processes, targets, and outcomes. Integrated Planning is setting up your systems, processes, policies, and organization to better collaborate. Speeding up everything from review sessions to ad hoc asks across planning segments. For example, areas such as Promotional Strategy need information from various departments and cross-functional teams to fully understand how updates to pricing on a holiday offering would impact at both a high and low level. Operating in silos allows room for human error, increasing workload with little collaboration.
Another opportunity emerges when imagining a space where merchants can visualise their collection within various store clusters and/or regions, at several different points of the year, putting themselves directly into the customers’ shoes and taking away what white space may need to be filled, planning with the end in mind.
One of the major benefits of Integrated Planning is maintaining the product and its emotional impact at the core of the process. The separation of plan data and product visualization and feel is important to be conscious of within the current approach. With improved integration, assortments will be more cohesive, brand stories will be more effective, and plan targets will bring improved supply chain visibility. Inventory will be in the right place, at the right time, for the right customer, and with accurate forecasting in place.
How to proactively introduce an integrated planning process and system:
The status quo is far too little entrepreneurial within the retail sector, as businesses struggle to stay afloat within their daily workload. A thoughtful approach needs to be applied; retailers need to think of where they see themselves two, five and even ten years from now. An understanding of what critical functions within the business are needed, what process and system integrations have yet to be explored, and what emerging technology is required to progress towards future goals. Evidence suggests an alarmingly substantial portion of retailers have heavy manual work or no planning integration set-up.
Systems used today may be adequate, but there is a tremendous need for them to talk to each other and become collaborative spaces. At TPC, we have built a vast network of experts whose approach is powered by proven TPC methodology and years of industry experience and offer strategic guidance within this planning environment.