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Buying and merchandising’s most confusing terms broken down by the experts

Buying terminology can be mystifying, even for those working in the industry. Find clear definitions for Like-for-Like, WSSI and depth of range.

Buying terminology can be mystifying, even for those working in the industry. Find clear definitions for Like-for-Like, WSSI and depth of range.

If there was one thing we took away from the questions we received as part of our Ask EDITED campaign, it was that our readers definitely work in the industry. So it follows that of those questions were pretty specific to the lives and lexicons of buyers, merchandisers and other industry professionals. Especially the lexicons, which we received more than a couple questions about. And today, we’re going to get you some answers to them.

To get a better perspective, we’ve outsourced the wisdom to two experts who graciously agreed to weigh in. For questions one through three we’ve spoken to Beverley Chambers, Head of Operations at Numensa Retail and twenty-five-year industry veteran with experience in buying and product development with companies like Marks & Spencer, Arcadia, Next and Coles Group. For question four, we got in touch with Yvonne Lee, Brand Analyst on Intimate Apparel at Macy’s Merchandising Group.

Here’s what they had to say about your questions.

Q: What does WSSI stand for?

Beverley Chambers: The WSSI (weekly sales and stock intake plan) pronounced ‘whizzy’ is a fundamental tool used by retailers to plan when they bring stock into the business in line with planned sales levels. It is essentially an inventory management tool. Bring in the stock too early and you have money tied up in stock before you need it. Bring the stock in too late and you can run out of stock and lose sales. The WSSI is usually the responsibility of the merchandise planner (or merchandiser) to set up and monitor.

Q: What’s the true definition of Like for Like?

BC: Like for like, usually refers to sales or profits that have been adjusted to give a fair comparison with the same period last year. Adjustments are made to take account of the difference in the number of stores operating (taking into account store closures, openings or re-fits), the number of days or weeks in a selling period, or seasonal adjustments, for example the fact that Easter can be in April one year and March the next.

Q: What does depth of range mean? Is it lots of stock behind a line, or a wide range?

BC: The assortment strategy of a retailer will determine the width, breadth and depth of product assortment. The width refers to the number of categories or departments a retailer ranges, for example a department store will sell a broad number or categories, whereas a convenience store will only sell a few categories. Width refers to the number of sub-categories, styles or brands ranged within a particular category. So a specialist denim retailer will offer a wide assortment of jeans, whereas a women’s fashion brand will offer only a narrow selection of jean styles. Depth refers to the number of units stocked by size or colour (options), which is essentially sku level. So a company like Uniqlo could be said to have a narrow and deep assortment strategy, that is they limit the choice in terms of styles, but offer more depth in terms of the colour options and sizes stocked. Conversely, Zara could be said to have a wide and shallow assortment, offering a wide variety of styles across a broad selection of categories, but with little depth in terms of units stocked.

Q: Do stock levels have to change during the course of a season or should they be the same for every single month?

Yvonne Lee: We always have a minimum stock level in mind, but stock levels should change on a monthly basis, based on past sales and anticipated demand. You can add stock, for example if you’re planning for a big sale or promotion you should build your stock levels well ahead of time to make sure that the stores receive the inventory and have time to merchandise the products on the floor. After a big sale season or if you don’t have another other promotions for a while, you can maintain a lower level of stock to try and clear through old inventory to make room for new receipts.

Great answers! Thanks so much to our contributing experts for taking the time to help us out.