Seven Habits of Highly Effective Merchants
What makes a merchant great? According to marketing expert Andrea Lawson Gray, there's a lot more to it than just "shopping." Lawson Gray, president of San Francisco-based Aesthetics Marketing, says there are seven skills that separate the gurus from those who merely create a "me-too" product mix. Her "Seven Habits of Highly Effective Merchants" are:
1.Indexing. HEMs (Highly Effective Merchants) use many different methods to measure merchandise success, including benchmarking (both by item and by classification); analysis of space versus number of items per classification; demand versus profitability; and margin analysis.
2.Source to a Plan. HEMs source great products based on sound merchandise plans. Have you ever put together a great catalog of products only to find you are over-assorted in one area, under-assorted in another, and your average retail is off? Lawson Gray says HEMs know how to create an assortment that will net the dollars targeted in their budgets.
3.Develop Unique Sourcing Approaches. HEMs find different and creative ways to source and select products. They have innovative ways to get their creative merchandising juices flowing, so they can create a product mix that is different from the competition's. They believe in line extensions, product testing and new product development.
4.Build Great Vendor Relationships. HEMs make vendors their partners. They build better vendor relationships so they can benefit from really strong relationships with their suppliers.
5.Build Great Merchandising Departments. HEMs know how to create and manage the sample room—the "war room" of catalog merchandising, where samples are stored during the selection process. HEMs also have refined the "sample-up" process, the system by which items are requested from vendors for catalog consideration. Finally, they know how to build efficient communications with the creative team to ensure that the catalog photos and copy promote the best product features and benefits.
6.Stay Focused on Brand. HEMs use techniques that position their company as the authority, make customers more receptive to new merchandise, and encourage purchase of "already seen" merchandise.
7.Spot Trends. HEMs know how to spot what's hot and what's not, when to get into a trend and when to get out of it. Understanding the difference between a flash-in-the-pan fad product and one that is trending up is key to giving customers what they want. This ability comes from reading the trade papers for your merchandise segment; scouring the Internet; shopping or getting reports from overseas; subscribing to trend reports; and generally having a finger on the market's pulse. —Edward Fischer