November 13, 2019

Merchandise Attribution

Let's tell a little story here.

Back in the stone ages of retail (1997) I worked at Eddie Bauer. We had a division in our stores called "Sport Shop".

If you walked into one of our stores, you'd first see the Sport Shop department ... a canoe handing from the ceiling, fishing lures, general manly outdoor merchandise and gear.

You'd watch a couple enter the store. The guy would look at the Sport Shop and stop dead in his tracks. The woman would walk right past the Sport Shop and head toward casual apparel or our tailored/professional line.

Well, this Sport Shop, when measured on a square footage basis, didn't pay the bills. It was a money loser ... a significant money loser.

Sport Shop was shuttered.

And then something fascinating happened.

Women's merchandise sales decreased a bit.

Men's merchandise sales decreased a lot. All of a sudden, we had a "mens problem".

In other words, what we really had was a Merchandise Attribution problem. The Sport Shop was the bait (play on words) for getting the man in the store, where the spouse frequently bought something for the man. Take the Sport Shop away, and you take the guy out of the picture, and then you reduce sales as a consequence.

Why bring this up?

Because in my projects I'm increasingly seeing "Merchandise Attribution" issues. A product category is discontinued, and as a result 2-3 other categories begin to struggle.

It's become obvious that almost nobody is studying Merchandise Attribution. It's a gaping hole that can and should be filled by the vendor community. It's entirely possible that this becomes an area of focus for me in 2020, paired with my Pricing work that has become so popular.

Show of hands ... how many of you are studying "Merchandise Attribution"????

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