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Webinar: Planning new life out of old brick and mortar

Essential Retail is working alongside end-to-end merchandising planning solutions provider, TXT Retail, to host a webinar on planning new life out of old brick and mortar.

Scheduled for Thursday 9 June, between 15:00-16:00 BST, the webinar will highlight five fundamental steps retailers need to take for planning to increase profitability, by using stores as multipurpose vehicles for keeping up with the customer. Essential Retail editor, Ben Sillitoe, will moderate a discussion with Charlotte Kula-Przezwanski, partner and director of EMEA for Columbus Consulting, and Peter Charness, SVP Americas & global CMO for TXT Retail.

Webinar: Planning new life out of old brick and mortar.

While online sales have continued to grow over the last few years, retailers have found that the cost of delivering goods to customers from different channels and to increasingly tighter timescales is a real operational pressure. With between 80-90% of all sales in retail still completed in a store environment, the need to increase store profitability remains as pertinent today as it was pre-online retailing.

Today's shop-anywhere-anytime culture puts pressure on retailers to offer the right product in the right channel at the right price, right now. With the store often used as a pick-up or shipping hub for the newer selling channels, merchandise and assortment planning approaches have arguably never been more critical. 

Dior, Levi's, Pandora and Sephora are examples of retailers that TXT has helped meet modern merchandising and planning demands. The webinar on 9 June will offer some case studies of how retailers are adjusting their processes to meet the needs of a new breed of customer, as well providing a platform for a wider debate on the key issues impacting all players in the industry.

Essential Retail (ER) caught up with Peter Charness (PC), prior to the webinar, to hear some of his views.

ER: Tell us some of the key findings from the TXT Thinking Retail series from earlier this year? What were the common challenges revealed by the participating retailers?

PC: Most retailers seem to at least have their plans to support the omnichannel shopping experience in place, with the vast majority now offering at least click & collect capabilities even if they have not fully implemented their entire programme. Even if implementation were a work in progress, the 'what and how' to do it questions seemed to be largely answered.

The concept of putting the customer at the centre of the merchandising process, particularly as it related to assortment management and localised assortments is top of mind for virtually all our participants and received a lot of discussion. The ability to execute on this requirement, in particular leveraging CRM/marketing data as part of the overall planning/assortment management process is less clear, with implementation planning still being in the formative state. There seems to be more retailers opening locations in countries that they may not have operated within historically, making the requirement to more dramatically alter assortments by location a higher priority.

ER: Can you provide details about how a TXT retailer has improved its merchandise & assortment planning? What results were achieved?

PC: It's been a busy year. With a record number of new customers joining the TXT client base of over 300 global retailers we've been working on quite a number of new opportunities (as well as on a lot of implementation projects). From a technology standpoint we've been applying new in-memory capabilities to our overall platform to support more complex scenarios, faster calculations and the ability to handle larger volumes of data. We've also extended and enhanced our 'Agile Fit' templates, increasing their functionality with more best practice business processes. Customers who have leveraged the Agile Fit templates have seen their projects going live with much shorter timelines, and greater functionality.

As an example we really believe that our ability to support alternative omnichannel business models out of the box is second to none. We often see our customers evolve and change their approach, or internal organisational structures as they evolve their omnichannel practices, but with TXT Planning these changes rarely require any modifications to the software or the implementation. 

Finally, but not last in importance, we continue to provide clever ways of driving out localised assortments with a high degree of automation starting with overall strategy setting and then determining exactly which items/colours best fit each location. We have further developed some interesting techniques and visualisation capabilities that still let the merchants and product designers apply the art that is so essential to building great collections, while bringing more automation and science to the complex process behind creating well balanced assortment that generate better margins and higher levels of customer satisfaction.

ER: How should retailers shape their modern buying, planning and merchandising teams to ensure they are optimising performance?

PC: Team is the essential word to focus on in this question. There are a lot of skills required to optimise assortments, and balancing all of the players and points of views collaboratively and with not just a sense of urgency, but the ability to execute with urgency is part of the magic that makes a great merchant organisation. Simple things like co locating all the key players to really make it a team is often times an easy-to-do step. Giving all participants a common platform that supports the wide variety of business processes that they all have to execute is perhaps a longer term goal.

Perhaps counter intuitive would be to reduce the amount of specialised skills that are required to execute upon the full merchandise lifecycle. If a financial planner hands over requirements to the buyers, who need to work within an overall merchandise vision but also with the product designers and then the planners – who themselves have to insure that allocators, pricing and replenishers are all on the same page – it gets a bit difficult to execute consistently and with urgency. Modern technology can make these inherently complicated tasks easier to execute with greater consistency and less need of specialisation.

ER: The webinar on 9 June will look at five fundamental planning steps retailers need to take to increase profitability, with special attention paid to the role of the store. Can you offer a few insights into what will be covered?

PC: Just to whet the appetite? If you asked a store designer to create a brick and mortar location that would have to serve the needs of displaying product for purchase, providing convenient pick-up for customers who placed orders elsewhere, and to allow efficient shipment from stores for home delivery – do you think the store would be set up as it is today, would it be staffed the same way,  or might it look rather different?

Planning product for this "location" also needs to be different. We'll be looking at these sorts of factors and giving some great case studies as to how progressive retailers are evolving their physical locations to catch up with the customer.

Webinar: Planning new life out of old brick and mortar.

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