Industry May 23, 2018 4 min read

How to use assortment to plan your best season ever [download toolkit: 2/3]

Impress your colleagues, your boss and eventually even your customers with this next-level assortment planning spreadsheet. We discuss how to get granular on your assortment, spot...

The best research goes way beyond mood boards, street style and runway pictures.

It unearths real insights. Stuff that gets the entire business excited about an opportunity and results in increased sales.

To get to those kinds of dial-shifting findings, you’ve got to dig deep – but new tools make that process fast and effective.

In part one of our assortment planning series we showed you how to identify successes and failures in your market. We also helped you identify where your own range out-performed your expectations.

Now you need to start making some more decisions based on the performance of your line, category or department. This is the point you’re going to need to get real friendly with data.

The best analysis you’ve ever done

So where to start? Break out your category performance from last year to see where the highest sales volume came from. This will help you determine where to invest in this year.

It’s up to you how granular you get on those categories or subcategories. Every business is different in terms of what metrics you can access, but these are some key ones to look at.

The superstar metrics:

• Margin
• Average Unit Retail
• Sales
• Sell through
• Cost
• Retail price
• On hand units

You’re going to benchmark these metrics against the average metrics for your area, whether that’s department or category.

We’ve made a beautiful template that automates a lot of this once you have those key metrics. And you can download it for free!

Decide how granular you want to be – you could go down to product-by-product basis if you wanted, or use it to cross compare subclasses in your category.

Use it to impress your boss, be the helpful one who shares it with the entire team, or even pretend you came up with it – we don’t mind, the aim of the game is to use data!

And it’s built by people who used to do the job. Meghan Waltimire is on our Customer Success team, but prior to that she was a planner at Macy’s specializing in women’s designer footwear.

In her last job she invested heavily in seeking out a fact-based approach and now raves about the joy of data. “You put in a little hard work on setting up a watertight data framework and the wins are huge, and lasting. I’d use the same process each planning phase.

Like magic, this spreadsheet will identify the parts of your assortment that performed best.

Once you can see them, start thinking about why they did well. Are many of them from the same vendor? Are there themes in color, fabric, silhouette or print?

Get picking those trends

Having learned from last season and gained insights into the market, you’re now narrowing in on color palette, fabrics and shapes. And this is where data helps you see with a laser focus what works and doesn’t work.

When you’re selecting a color palette, why not cross-check TPX references with retail data? Quickly build up a picture of which shades will escape discounting.

Take purple for example – last Fall 18% of new purple arrivals ended up discounted by 50% off, or more. That’s the kind of data you should be armed with before ordering 6,000 purple wrap dresses.

Or why not run a dashboard that shows how your market weighted its dress category to figure out where you need more long-sleeved shapes or midi lengths?

When you present your trends, support them with data and get buy-in from the rest of the team (without a fight!).

As Meghan puts it, “the hardest part of the job is having to challenge a teammate’s instinct, and often that’s in quite a public setting. Having data to support your callouts makes that so much easier.”

When you present your trends, support them with data and get buy-in from the rest of the team (without a fight!).

Pricing strategy research

You’ve decided upon themes and products you’d like in your assortment in the next season, you know which fabrics and colors are more likely to be a hit with your consumers – next up is price.

Price data is a goldmine of insight. Start by looking at your existing price architecture alongside that of your immediate competitors.

Drop in specific sub-categories and details –for example floral printed, long-sleeve midi dresses– to understand where they are beating you and where are you pricing needlessly low.

assortment planning
With just a few clicks, you can see exactly how competitors structure pricing around a key trend.

Once you’ve flagged those gaps, take a look at the pricing of each competitors’ bestsellers. Is there anything unique in price point that has helped these items sell out fast? And what about the worst performances – where did the first price adjustment go and how deep did the discounting end up?

You can also gain fascinating insights like revealing products that were priced up after they first arrived – a sign that the retailer sees room to optimize the margins on a garment.

Use data to set prices you can stick to. In the longer term you’ll be able to train your customer to stop expecting price slashes through the season.

Up next we’re sharing tips and tricks from the pros to help you become the best assortment planner in the biz. 

Originally written by Katie Smith, edited by Kayla Marci.  

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