Joe Palzkill

Joe Palzkill

Joe is Vice President of Product Solutions at Software Paradigms International (SPI), an award-winning provider of technology solutions, including merchandise planning applications, mobile applications, eCommerce development and hosting and integration services, to retailers for more than 20 years.

Joe is a 34-year veteran of the retail industry with hands-on experience in marketing, merchandising, inventory management and business development at multichannel retail companies including Lands’ End,, and Duluth Trading Company. At SPI, Joe uses his experience to help customers and prospects understand how to improve sales and profits through applying industry best practices in merchandise planning and inventory management systems and processes.

The Value of Allocation Accuracy

It’s among the most frustrating parts of retailing: You built a strong assortment plan. Great product mix. Good margin. Customer response is better than you had hoped for. You're ready for an outstanding selling season. Yet the allocation process drops the ball. Too many large dresses in store A while the racks are empty in…

Increase Margins With Predictive Localized Analytics

As I go through the discovery process with prospective SPI customers, there's a moment in almost every engagement when one of the planners or allocators shows their current multitab, multidimension, multipivot table, holographic (OK, I exaggerated on the last point) homegrown Excel spreadsheet. It always impresses. I'm genuinely in awe of the complex usage of…

Creating a Vendor Performance Scorecard

I recently moved into a new house and was doing the requisite purging of years of accumulated stuff, including a few boxes of old work files. One of the dusty files was a project related to developing a vendor performance scorecard when I worked at Lands’ End around 20 years ago. At the time, we felt…

Why Planning Systems Must Be Priority for Retailers

It’s no surprise to learn that retailers are in a rapid investment period in terms of IT systems. Historically slow to invest in technology, retailers are now playing catchup in an arena that punishes slow-movers. A retail CIO is faced with the daunting challenge of solving a myriad of complex issues fast, including: delivering the…

What Does ‘Soon’ Mean for Inventory Planners

A highlight of my year is the annual Direct Tech (now SPI) User Conference. (SPI acquired Direct Tech earlier this year.) This event brings together SPI clients for three days to network with their peers, learn more about SPI software applications and services, and discuss best practices related to merchandise and inventory planning. This year’s…

What Do Predictive Analytics Mean for Inventory Planners?

One of the buzz phrases that's surfaced with merchandise and inventory planning systems over the last few years is “predictive analytics.” At its simplest, the term reflects the fact that data processing capabilities have advanced to the point where they don’t simply generate operational reports and ask the user to interpret information. They're now capable…

Inventory is At the Heart of Omnichannel Retail Success

As many readers of this blog know, I've been working with Direct Tech, a 26-year-old provider of merchandise and inventory planning tools for direct-to-consumer retailers, for the last few years. Earlier this year, Direct Tech was acquired by Software Paradigms International (SPI), a 20-year-old provider of IT solutions to brick-and-mortar retailers. It’s exciting to be…

The Power of Incremental Gains in Inventory Planning

It's a given that inventory planners are always wrong. I learned this lesson early in my inventory planning career at Lands’ End many years ago. It was understood by the inventory staff that there would be mention at the end-of-year company meeting that inventory negatively affected results. The message was either, "demand was great, unfortunately, we were unable to capture all the sales due to shortage of inventory" or "sales were good, but unfortunately, gross margin suffered due to markdowns to liquidate excess inventory."

Get Returns on Your Returns

With the advent of omnichannel retailing, the subject of customer returns has become a hot topic for retailers. The financial impact of returns has always been a factor for traditional retailers, but the evolution of customer-centric omnichannel retailing has pushed this issue to the forefront.

2015 Inventory Planning Wish List

Today, I'm heeding my own advice about conducting an annual process post-mortem, on a personal level. I've been reflecting on the businesses I've worked with this past year here at Direct Tech, and thinking about how my experiences with them will affect my own planning for the year ahead. In the course of that analysis, I've identified several issues that crop up repeatedly industrywide. I'd like to share them with you. So without further ado, here are the top five inventory planning process improvements I'd recommend that all companies address in 2015:

Year-End Inventory Post-Mortem Tips

With the importance of holiday sales for retailers, it's crucial that inventory management departments closely analyze the season just completed. Doing so will help you understand what did and didn't work — hard-won knowledge you can factor into your planning for next year. Here are five holiday post-mortem best practices used by Direct Tech customers that you can adopt to improve future performance:

Shoot While the Ducks Are in the Air

Bill End, avid outdoorsman and former CEO at L.L.Bean and Lands’ End, would frequently say, "We've got to shoot while the ducks are in the air." He was explaining the importance of aggressively marketing while consumers were naturally shopping, but the same adage applies to inventory planning and decision making. While there are many factors involved with successful holiday inventory planning, most of which would have been executed over the preceding 12 months or more, I want to focus on the most important inventory actions you can control in the next few weeks.  As we've observed with our Direct Tech customers, now is the time to do the following:

Done is Better Than Perfect

I was reading an article about Facebook recently and took note of the social network's motto, "Done is better than perfect." That took me back a few years, specifically to Lands' End in the 90s. One of my boss' favorite sayings was, "Don't let perfect be the enemy of good." Recognizing the shared genealogy in those two phrases, I spent a distracted 15 minutes looking at other variations of the theme.

How Product Profiling Increases Sales and Profits

An accepted best practice in inventory planning is to adhere to the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. For inventory planners, this is also often referred to as product profiling, or ABC profiling. This makes intuitive sense. It's natural to spend relatively more time in planning, analysis and management of the top-selling items, but what does it mean in financial terms?

Inventory Success Requires Systems, People and Process


Often, while working with Direct Tech's current and prospective customers, I'll hear the age-old question: "Can't the system just do that?" If only! On occasion, it really is that easy. Computer software is great for solving consistent, recurring tasks where the rules can be defined to yield repetitive answers. More often, however, the answer is "it depends." Merchandise and inventory planning is a combination of art and science. The science is programmable, but the art is a different matter.