What is merchandise planning? Every planning professional or retail executive knows the answer to this question, right? However, merchandise planning means different things depending on the retail sector, the origin and the history of the company. There's no singular approach to merchandise planning.
For a fashion specialty, it’s about encapsulating the product strategies and trends in a detailed financial plan to be executed from concept design through final markdown and liquidation. For an off-price retailer, the focus is on open-to-buy management in-season with few long lead-time production or commitment issues. For a mass merchant, concerns range from those of specialty retailers to maintaining in-stock service levels for staple items.
When merchandise planning became its own specialized function, the focus was “the right product, in the right place, at the right time.” In today’s hypercompetitive omnichannel world, it’s “the right product, in the right place, at the right time, at the right price, in the right quantity,” putting greater pressure on retailers to have the right processes in place to appease today’s demanding customers.