Saturday, 27 December 2014

New Resolutions

Christmas came, the boxing day sales started (as early as 14th December - as I observed it anyway!) and soon it will be 2015.

So here are some deals for New Year's Eve:

Hoss Intropia Lace Maxi Dress £258 (from £430) ; Closet Floral Dress £34 (from £48) ; French Connection Misty Mountain Shift Dress £44 (from £110) ; Oasis Lurex Drape Dress £28 (from £42) ; Jigsaw Metallic Court Shoe £69 (from £139) ; Mango Leather Pumps £29.99 (from £59.99) ; Nine West Ispy Wedges £49 (from £85) ; Sophia Webster Xavier Pumps £350 (from £495)

And, in the spirit of introspection and scrutiny of the year gone-by, here's a list of things I am resolved to do at work over the next few months:

1. Really sink my teeth into some reports, simplify them and make them more efficient. Among other things, these reports flag products that are missing from our pages - every lacuna is potential inconvenience to customers and/or lost sales. I will have to be disciplined and scrape together some time to do this now, to save time later.
2. Evaluate the habits I'm falling into when I prepare to, and go about, remerchandising a page:
- I do a lot of research before I start work on a page - into sales values, sales volumes, page views, new and discontinued products, marketing strategy, market trends, supply issues... But I need to make sure that I am not forgetting anything and that nothing is being considered out of order or unnecessarily.
- I think sometimes I waste time starting from square one, when I could refine what's already there. Sometimes I try to work with what I have, but ultimately change everything, in which case it would have been quicker to start from scratch.
3. Last, I want to pencil in some time to step back and see the big picture. Something of a perfectionist, mired in the little details, I can fail to spot big changes that could make big differences. I should step back more often.

Well, very happy New Year to you then x

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Holidays are coming...

Wooden House Decoration £3 John Lewis, Tomte Grankvist £23 for 3, Paper Twirl Decorations £14 for 6 Designers Guild, White and Red Bauble £5 Madam Stoltz at Skandium; Geometric Shape Decorations £4 House Doctor at Tate Modern, Multi-Coloured Baubles £8 for 6 Debenhams; Glitter Tree Decoration £3.50 John Lewis, Coloured Jute Baubles £9.99 for 3 Zara, Deer in Snow Glass Bauble £4 Paperchase

So Christmas is nearly upon us again! I for one can hardly believe it, but then I have been very busy at work over the last month and a half, merchandising as many of my pages as possible. 

It was a little hard to know where to start, since every page could do with some attention and there was no way I could see to them all.

Marketing strategy led me to focus on certain seasonally-relevant areas (wintery products, products that make good gifts, products that lend themselves to celebrations). I definitely did my best to look after key Christmassy pages.

At the same time, I didn't want to neglect other important departments just because this isn't meant to be their time of year. So I identified pages with potential and spent time working on them too. I also tried to maintain the pages that were already performing well - you can't let them lose their lustre. 
When selecting these extra sections to merchandise, I was looking for pages that weren't growing commensurately to the website/to their category and for pages that were outstripping average.

There are still whole areas I haven't been able to touch, though I wish I could have.

So it's been very much a matter of splitting myself and not spending too long on one thing.

And on that note, I should probably get on with some of my own Christmas preparation. Presents to buy, cards to write, outfits to pick, meals to plan - oh, how I love Christmas!

Sunday, 30 November 2014

The Rise of Black Friday

I haven't posted in a while - it's always a bit intense when you start a new job and, unfortunately, I just haven't found the time. 
I was intending to write a second part to my last post, reading into the merchandising on a different retailer's site. But after yesterday, no self-respecting British retail blog could fail to write about Black Friday!

Black Friday was fairly high profile last year, but this time around, Verdict were reporting that 47% of UK shoppers were planning to take advantage of a Black Friday deal and Visa were predicting an increase of 22% on 2013 online sales. 
As it turned out, the police had to be called to several Tesco stores, where the shopping had just got out of hand, while websites such as Argos were inaccessible at several points during the day due to the sheer volume of traffic.

It is interesting that the American post-Thanksgiving promotions have just caught on in the UK. 
Though I was very aware of the event, I didn't really shop myself - I was (naturally enough) busy at work (as are a lot of people are this time of year) and, at the moment, my focus is on buying presents - not snagging a cut-price TV or upgrading my phone.
However, despite the impracticalities, Brits really warmed to the day. My boyfriend started the week asking 'what's this Black Friday-thing?' and ended it ringing me at work in an agony of indecision over whether to buy a 70%-off monitor!

Some retailers could certainly have handled it better and I'm sure they will next year. It means lower margins, but higher volumes for businesses, which should, if everyone is sensible, be very much in the shoppers' interests. 
It will be interesting to see what happens on Boxing Day. The start-date of these sales has crept earlier and earlier each year, detracting from the excitement surrounding them. And for some, shopping is always going to be the last thing you want to do the day after Christmas.
And it will be fascinating to see what happens on 27th November 2015.

Here are the details of the black products above:
Misfit Activity Tracker £79, Pebble Smart Watch £99, Jawbone UP24 Activity Tracker £99, Motorola Moto 360 Smartwarch £199
Senheiser Momentum Headphones £200, B&W P3 Headphones £170, Bose Beoplay A8 £849, Sony SRS X9 Speakers £599

Monday, 3 November 2014

Ways of Working 2

Acne Lambswool Jumper £230, Caron Piu Bellodgia Eau de Parfum £105, House of Hackney Palmeral Teapot £70, Deborah Lippmann Nail Polish Weird Science £16, Marni Felt Sandals £355

So recently I discussed how I've been adopting two strategies when merchandising. The first strategy is, of course, data-driven: number of sales, of clicks... Now the second strategy - style, or function, or colour, etc. - isn't chosen at random. But instinct definitely comes into it. I try to intuit the most common deciding factor when purchasing the products on a certain page and I work with that.

For example, on a page of serious hiking rucksacks customers are likely to be influenced by technical criteria - capacity, number of compartments, ergonomic design of the straps... While for a page of little daysacks, the look of the bag - colour, print, etc. - might be more important.

Trail and error is of course very useful when selecting a second strategy. And market research no doubt sheds a lot of light.

I looked at the website of one of my favourite department stores, to see if there was any evidence of this shopping-habits-influenced merchandising on their pages: 

I would have expected the skincare pages to be organised by function. They started with a row of anti-aging concentrates/creams, but after this my impression was that they were organised by sales. You saw several cleansers, exfoliants, etc. together at times, but it could have been chance.
There were eight categories to click into and, in the first two of these, there were four subcategories. On the category pages, the products seemed to be grouped by brand, with a couple of groupings for each brand. Perhaps a high percentage of customers interact with these categories - making the layout of the All page less important. And perhaps the customers also know what brand they are looking for before they arrive at the site, and so don't need to compare different makes of moisturiser... Alternatively, this grouping by brand could just be the result of the product upload process!
You could filter by price, colour (a bit irrelevant here but I suppose it has to be the same for everything - lipstick to skincare) and again  brand. There were two options by which you could sort (price and newness).

The nail varnishes, which I would have thought should be organised by colour, were grouped by brand and then - or they seemed to be anyway - colour. At the top of the page there were some commercial-looking reds and a peach, then some pinks and purples, these were followed by metallics and some rich blues/greens, then primary colours, then pastels and so on.

I wondered whether I would see the candles ordered by fragrance-type - fresh, floral, woody, etc. I found that they were grouped by brand and then there was some evidence of the floral scents all being together, with the fresh scents after and the oriental scents after that, though it could have been chance. There were also some lip balms and soaps in with the home fragrances, which was a bit confusing.

Without knowing more about their sales and systems, it's difficult to say whether this retailer merchandises according to shopping habits for particular products. But I have a feeling they might.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Unexpected way(s) of working

Rag & Bone Cashmere and Wool-Blend Cardigan £330, Hoss Intropia Zebra Brooch £41, Bunney Silver Initial Brooch £195, H&M Short Cardigan £9.99, Uniqlo +J Stretch Cashmere Cardigan £129, Marni Brooch £180, Cilea Brooch at V&A £85, Mango Cotton Cardigan £29.99

I’ve been working with a couple of different strategies when I've been merchandising recently. I had expected to use one, namely figures. I thought it would be a matter of identifying the best products – from the point of view of sales, or profit, or clicks, or any other criterion – and placing them in prominent positions.
However, most pages, I am finding, require a secondary strategy, or logic. It’s like structuring an argument, or an essay, or an article (I think it could be most like constructing an article). You might want to put all your winning ideas at the very beginning, but you have to order them, group them, link them, set each one to its best advantage.
It is necessary to adopt a subsidiary strategy: to use style to determine position, as well as sales, for example; or to consider colour, or function, or price. If I were working on a jewellery page, I might rank my products according to the number of clicks they received, then I might place the top three necklaces on the first row, the top three bracelets on the second, the top three earrings on the third, etc. 
I think the order the functions come in (necklace, then bracelet, then earrings) should be determined by individual product clicks (i.e. if the product to receive the most clicks were a necklace, it should lead and two other necklaces should follow it; if the product to receive the second most clicks were a bracelet, it would then come fourth), rather than overall function clicks (i.e. if bracelets receive the most clicks overall, they would lead). If you don’t heed the individual, you might end up with your best products some distance down the page, if for instance you have one or two very strong necklaces and lots of mediocre bracelets.

Now, I think I am feeling the need to use several strategies because it makes the page easier to understand and more convincing. You might have exactly what the customer wants, it might be at the top of the page, but if it is surrounded by dissimilar products, by products the customer doesn’t want at all, it is easily missed. Using several strategies allows you to break your page into sections, so that the customer can see the extent of your range, discard the parts that are not of interest, and focus on the parts that are. A multi-strategy approach improves the page aesthetic, something that must not be underestimated.

So, from now, on I’ll be seeing more in my products than just their figures!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

And fresh p-p-pages

Muuto (at Wood Table Lamp £135, Hay (at nest) Colour Domino Set £39, French Connection Tray Coffee Table £190, Next Bamboo Vase £25, H&M Wood Tray £14.99

Last week, I started properly merchandising in my new position. 

A small professional re-orientation means I'm now working on e-commerce, so - in some respects - my efforts will effect customers more directly and their efficacy will be more immediately measurable.

I can't expect any really reflective results from the pages I've worked on for four to five weeks. But I've been checking them compulsively over the weekend (nothing should have changed, but I couldn't stop myself!) 

And I'm very excited (and simultaneously a bit anxious) to see initial sales tomorrow.

I'd like to compare sales since to sales before I remerchandised. But I will check sales overall, and sales of similar products, for the same periods - because your figures natually fluctuate.

 I could compare this year's sales before and after my merchandising to last year's sales for the equivalent periods. And I could look at actual and forecasted sales for the days after I merchandised.

This should tell me if its starting off on the right foot anyway. Exciting!

Monday, 18 August 2014


I haven't posted in a while, but I hope it's with fair reason. I started a new job a couple of weeks ago and have spent almost all my time since immersing myself in the new company and role.

I've had introductions to our various channels and formats and touchpoints. I've spent valuable time with people in functions associated (directly and indirectly) with my own. I've spent valuable time with people in functions completely unrelated to mine too! 

I learnt about our customers, our products, the experiences we offer and how we offer them.

Most of the time, I met with a passion to share knowledge and, in turn, a lively interest in what I was going to be doing. Then, at times, I learnt through mucking in and doing some work myself.

More recently, I've been getting down to the nitty gritty, to
the job I'm here to do. And at this point, I've been benefiting from the experience and generosity of those who've been doing it up until now.

Whenever I've had a spare moment, I've been reading company literature, trawling the website, versing myself in what makes our brand what it is.

I've never experienced such a comprehensive, expansive induction, and I'm so grateful for it. I'm left hoping I've made the most and that I've learnt enough!

So after two great years in my previous job, lots of changes. And lots to write about in the future, I think!

Pic 1 - Mara Hoffmann for Anthropologie Notebook £12, French Connection Wanda CrossBody Bag £85, Clarks Busby Jazz £69.99

Pic 2 - Lamy AL-Star Fountain Pen £23.95, Liberty Blue Edge A5 Notebook £16.95, LK Bennett Leonie Patent-Leather Cluch £185, Apologie Pumps £250 at Shoescribe

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Comparative Competitive Shopping 3

Staying with my parents, my choice of retailers for a last post comparing online to in-store shopping experience was a little limited. I planned to do homeware, but there's not much available in the city centre - no Habitat or Heals or Conran store.
So I went for a brand that started out selling cushions, ironing board covers, etc. though it has diversified since. It's known for its prints and is apparently on the point of being sold.

The windows displayed bags, of different prints and styles, in distressed wooden crates. Inside the store, more crates presented homeware - cooking/baking utensils, tea caddies, biscuits and so on. The front left of the store was given over to further homeware, the right was bags and the middle was smaller leather/canvas goods - purses, passport covers, sunglasses cases...
A wall behind a central till unit separated the front from the middle of the shop which was selling children's-ware and stationery, nightware and washbags, and womenswear. Then, there was another wall, behind which were cushions, blankets, bolts of fabric, sewing boxes and wallpaper.
The decor - not what I went in to look at - was quite interesting. If you looked up above the products, there were local postcards, tea towels and samplers; in the kids' section, there were old abaci and alphabet charts. It showed an impressive attention to detail and evinced the traditional but idiosyncratic spirit of the brand. I was impressed.

Above the fold on the website homepage, there was one large image of several bags. As in the store windows, they were a mix of floral, spot and bird prints. They were hanging from some distressed wooden pegs, reminiscent of school pegs, and in the foreground was a Penguin edition of Sterne's A Sentimental Journey. Again, there was something classic but quirky about the book; it might also have been meant to instil wanderlust and a desire for some new luggage.
The images directly under the fold linked to fashion, bags and accessories (purses, etc.); these categories were also the first three on the top navigation bar. So the site seemed to have less of a focus on homeware, and more of a focus on fashion, than the store. All in all though, I would say that merchandise (and brand) was very much aligned in store and online.

So I think this will be the last of my comparative posts. I'm actually about to leave London and start a new job - it'll be a slightly different role, a different industry and a different end of the market.
Therefore, the focus of the blog will be changing slightly - should be interesting though!

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Comparative Competitive Shopping 2

Lyon 4 Piece Sofa Set £225, Ray-Ban Matte Blue New Wayfarers £125, Navy Canvas Slip-On £20, Tipped Polo Shirt £16, Chino Shorts £16, Miami Chair £65, Delicate Bracelet Four Pack £8.50, Blue Stripy Sandals £30, Navy Playsuit £22, Fish Stacking Mugs Set of 4 £12, Teal Bubble Wine Glasses set of 4 £16  

So my next exercise in comparing the website and stores of brands took me to a large high-street retailer, one that's apparently doing pretty well at the moment.

The first thing I would say is that the shopping experience in the stores I visited was very different to the experience of shopping their site. I got the impression the site aims to replicate, or at least evoke, their iconic catalogue. So, to some extent, expecting it to resemble a store might not be valid.

Anyway, I visited the shops/website last Friday/Saturday. The homepage was promoting summery products, with a secondary focus on Fathers' Day gifts. There was a great image of a man on a yacht, wearing an ochre-coloured, geometric-print shirt.
When you followed the Fathers' Day link, a page of packshots represented the range of polo shirts, accessories (e.g. leather bags, watches), loungewear (e.g. slippers) grooming (fragrance) and gifts (a brushed-metal hip flash, etc.)
When you followed the link for womenswear for example, you came to a page which presented subcategories, such as casual, tailored and occasion. If you clicked casual, you reached a page of stories - a light, patterned, denimy collection, festival fashion, casual basics, beachwear... Selecting one of these took you to a series of editorial images, so you felt almost as if you were shopping from a magazine or catalogue. It was really enjoyable.

The first store I visited was quite a small one in the city of London. One window displayed the festival fashion story (pink poncho, etc.) and some denim. There was a menswear window too - summery items with a nautical slant, as on their homepage.
In the store, I spotted a chinzy-print prominent in tailoring online and some embroidered items from a middle east story - really nice but not a focus on the web. Some of the rails were marked with Fathers' Day signs, but you didn't have that much of selection of accessories / gifts.
Imagery was present, but it got a little lost among all the merchandise and it wasn't always imagery I'd noticed on the website. Lifestyle seemed to be conveyed and products seemed to be contextualised a lot less.

I also visited a bigger, flagship store. Here, it felt as if you could really take your time and enjoy your shop. There were some pretty stylish mannequins and striking images. I saw a little of the light denimy story that made up the first of the casualwear pages online. There was also a good choice of Fathers' Day fragrances and gifts by the men's tills.

Interestingly, nowhere I went had much of a homewear section - when this is one of the first options on their homepage. 

So online and in-store models differ, obviously, but overall I'd say merchandise and marketing messages were consistent.

The products above caught my eye when I was doing my research. I'm trying to spend as much time outside as possible at the moment (seize the sunshine while you have the opportunity!) These would set you up nicely for lazy day in the garden.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Comparative Competitive Shopping

Antonia's Flowers Floret Eau de Parfum £137, Diptyque Mousse Candle £40, Laure Mercier Creme de Pistache Honey Bath £32, Eve Lom Cleanser from£ 40, Malin + Goetz Sage Styling Cream £16, Kiehl's Creme de Corps from £16, Anthony Logistics Facial Moisturiser SPF 15 £32, Tom Ford for Men Eau de Toilette £48

I was discussing store visits and competitive shops with my manager recently. I do a bit both, but what I probably do most is online retail research. I thought it would be interesting to compare the online store to a bricks and mortar store of a couple of brands, to see how consistently they are merchandised.

First of all, I decided to look at a high-end beauty boutique - you might be able to guess which. At the moment, they have a print-based window scheme, six or seven moisturisers, exfoliators, supplements, etc. artfully arranged on a yellow background. When you enter the store, you see these products and more displayed on an island unit. Perspex blocks reveal that they make up the steps of particular beauty routine. There's some classic product by their bestselling brands, some more niche product, some newness; it's an interesting campaign and it certainly seemed to appeal to customers.

Their homepage featured the same image as the window. Beneath, pack-shots of particular products represented the steps of the beauty regime. When you clicked through, the selection of products was almost exactly the same as in store.

In store, the mens section was mainly Anthony Logistics, Kiehl's and a Malin + Goetz range that lead into the female skincare. The men's part of the website promoted a selection of essential men' products - the above brands were all well represented and their products were prominently positioned.

The in-store home selection was almost entirely Diptyque - candles, diffusers... Online, the 'home page' (not homepage, let us be clear!) was subcategory based, packshots linking to candles, sprays and diffusers, laundry products, hand wash. Diptyque was featured, but the candle subcategory packshot was own-brand. This was interesting as the own-brand candles were in the bath & body section of the website.

The website had a gift section which comprised a lot of sets. The only gift sets visible in store were an Eve Lom and a Malin + Goetz. The main fragrances in store were Diptyque, Acqua di Parma and Tom Ford - both of which were featured online. Serge Lutens and Antonia's Flowers made nice additions.

The most prominent make up brands when you walked into store were By Terry and Eve Lom - through Laura Mercier, Nars, Hourglass... were also present. Eve Lom was surprisingly pretty far down the foundation page of the site, though By Terry and Nars were packshots on the makeup page.

So there you have it, my comp of comp shopping. It's amazing what you can learn from presence and presentation, before you even get to sales figures and stock holding. I impulse purchased a lip liner while I was in store -  the perils of field work! I didn't buy anything while online, though I don't think you should read anything into that!

Hope you've had a great weekend!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Summer IS Coming

Hay Copenhague Barstool (designed by Ronan and Erwan Bourboullec) £206 from Haus, Stelton Cylinda Martini Mixer and Cocktail Shaker £69.95 and £119 from Occa Design, Uniqlo Supima Cotton Sweater £19.90, J.Crew Broken-In Chinos £75, Maison Francis Kurkdjian Zinc Globe Trotter Atomiser €85 (refils for €60) and Acqua Universalis 70ml €110, Acqua di Parma Ginepro di Sardegna 75ml and Deo Spray £54 and £27

So it feels as if I have been setting Seasonal Ideal Stock Levels constantly since the beginning of the year. As I've described before, sales patterns change at Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Easter and Father's Day, and you need to make sure the stock is in place by using special Seasonal IS levels.

But before July, August and September, I need to review the Standard IS levels. I'm working on this at the moment.
These are generally quite quiet months, with no events (like Valentine's or Mother's Day) to interrupt them. Local customers might go on holiday and be replaced by tourists with different purchasing preferences. And so to realise sales potential, and avoid overstocks, it's necessary to reset your Standard IS levels using last Summer's sales.

To do this, I will calculate the average weekly sales of each product in each store. If a store receives weekly orders and runs on three weeks of stock, I will set their IS level at three times their average weekly sales.

There are special-case products, of course: ones that sell infrequently but of which you need one or two on hand at all times; testers, samples and wrapping (I try to base my samples and testers on sales and my wrapping materials on consumption). But apart from that, it's pretty simple.

September is a small event in my calendar. In France, it's called the Rentrée. It's the time when you get back into everyday life, after your summer break. And some people like to buy themselves something - as a treat after they return to work, or as an inducement to work hard through the autumn/winter, or just because it's a fresh start. So I'll probably check the IS levels against September's sales, come the beginning of August, to make sure the stores won't be short of anything they need.

So this is how my year looks -
January to June - setting of standard IS levels, setting and re-setting of seasonal IS levels to meet the demands of shopping events such as Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Easter....
July to September - review of standard IS levels
October to December - setting of seasonal IS levels so that the stores are ready for Christmas.

With Father's Day, the last of my spring events, on the horizon, I decided to post a selection of men's merchandise. Have a great weekend!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

We've just got back from a trip to Rabat, Morocco. It was such a wonderful weekend I'm worried that if I think about it too much, or try to describe it in too great detail, it will slip away from me - I'll realise my memory is incomplete or inaccurate. It's sort of taken on the qualities of a mirage!

So to sketch out our stay, everything we saw was remarkable in its own way: the Kasbah was so colourful; the Medina and Souk were so bustling and fragrant (literally kilograms of herbs were for sale - thyme, mint, others I couldn't identify); the Chellah - a ruin dating back to Roman times, now the roost of dozens of storks - so dramatic; Tour Hassan - a half-built, twelfth-century minaret, covered in intricate Islamic brickwork - so beautiful.
Our accommodation was charming and the food was good.

Even retail in Rabat was remarkable. In the Medina, you could buy anything you could possibly want (fresh fruit and veg (melons, mulberries, artichokes, peas...), the aforementioned herbs, tortoises, teapots, rugs, MacBooks!) There was little touting of wares and, even when you entered a shop, there was minimal pressure to purchase. We did manage to buy a couple of souvenirs though, including a tajine from the charity Terres de Femmes.

I don't think I saw an outlet of a brand I recognised the entire time I was there. Though apparently, there was a Diesel, and a handful of other stores I know, in the Mega Mall, on the outskirts.
When I leafed through a local magazine, it seemed Rabat was less a retail centre than Casablanca and Marrakech. There, I got the impression that there were some good independent boutiques. There were also some striking features on kaftans and beauty treatments.

Anyway, if I were trying to recreate the feel of the holiday at home, I would buy some things similar to the below. There were lovely textiles, rugs and cushions, everywhere. In the Kasbah's Café Maure, mint tea was poured into glasses a bit like these. And the delicious hotel breakfast incorporated lemon marmalade and fig jam - trop bon! A holiday that was trop bien!

 Tory Burch Cotton Kaftan £285, Garden Trading Recycled Glass Tumblers £22 for 4, Toast Hand-Blown Glass £13.50, Thorody Ivor Cushion £75, Bonne Maman Lemon Marmalade and Fig Preserve £2.29, Dinny Hall Talitha Earrings £455, Isabel Marant Textured Bead Bracelet £70

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Last month, we had a pretty important product launch. Now, there are many points at which you can come unstuck with a launch: there are the pre-series, testers or samples to be sent out, so stores can build up excitement and perhaps a waiting list; then the stock has to be in store in plenty of time - and calculating how much to send is far from easy; and then there's all the promotional material - window schemes, sampling supports, gwps...

Here are some of the things that informed my decision on how much stock to send:

- Previous launches and how much was sold in the first months.
 When considering historic launches, I though about whether they were singular or if we were launching several skus in one go, what price point the products came in at and how that might have affected sales, what size the products were, what category they fell in (body, fragrance, home fragrance, gift sets...), what their functional, olfactive, aesthetic etc. characteristics were...

- Feedback from the stores, the sales team, the press, etc.
 There's always enthusiam around a launch - over time, you get a feeling for just how much of this will translate into sales.

- The demands of window scheme and merchandising. For this, I looked at photos of windows from last year and estimated how many testers / actual product would be required.

In the end, I pulled figures for what each store had sold of earlier, similar launches. I then tweaked this to take into account their targets, how this particular launch differed from earlier ones, general feeling around the product and visual merchandising requirements...

I think that's a comprehensive list of what influenced my decisions.
 And the launch has gone well so far, so our preparation must have been comprehensive enough. Yay!

I realised last week that I've never posted any merchandise for men. As merchandising is at least 50/50 men to women, that seems a bit remiss. So I'll start making up for it straight away.

1978 501s Levi's Vintage Clothing £180, Patterned Cardigan Raf Simons £560, Weather Report Teatowels and Plate Marimekko £29.50 and £32, Cirro Mug and Tumbler LSA £36 and £45 for 4, Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado Kiehls £33, Clean & Shave Neville £22, Nourishing Moisturiser Perricone MD £62

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

I recently read an article about a high-street brand that is giving its stores access to live sales data - so that they have visibility of best-sellers elsewhere, can ask other stores who they're selling what to perhaps, and maximise their own potential.

I was thinking of ways to achieve something similar, without huge investment in IT infrastructure.

Perhaps you could calculate each store's best-sellers each week- by value and by unit, because the little, frequent, or add-on, purchases are important - and distribute to the managers. At the end of each month, you could do the month's best-sellers as well as the week's best sellers and ask managers for a comment - if they've been using any techniques in particular to achieve these sales, etc.

I think this could really stimulate sales. And hopefully the means would be its own metric - if you saw best-sellers spread from store to store, you could see it was having an effect.

The bank holiday weekend gave me a much appreciated rest. At the end of the week, I was reading about an amazing treatment in Lush Spasp - the Hard Day's Night treatment. It's a full-body ,Shaitsu-inspired massage, performed to the sound of some brilliant Beatles covers (you can have a listen, and find more details, here), while you're in really comfortable pyjamas. Afterwards, I believe you are given a cup of tea, a biscuit and a bath bomb.

I tried to recreate something similar at home - lazing around in loungewear, listening to music, having lots of tea and demanding a back rub from my boyfriend. The below paints the picture (glamorised in some aspects, of course!). Hope your weekend has been just as busy or just as relaxing as you wanted.

Equipment Lilian Silk Pyjamas £430, Zimmerli Men's Pyjama Trousers £85, Lush Strawberry Feels Forever Massage Bar £5.75, Lush Blackberry Bath Bomb £2.95, Royal Copenhagen Blue Fluted Plain Cup & Saucer 89€, Pukka Detox Tea, Pink Wafer Biscuits

Monday, 14 April 2014

A while ago, I attended a range review. I helped a little with the preparation: pulling together sales by product last year, both in total and by channel; and then ranking the products, again both by channel and overall. We also produced spreadsheets grouping products by line and category, showing the different categories each family comes in, and calculating top-line growth by category.

The discussion at the range review meeting was fascinating. In many instances, the managers weren’t really wanting to extend or reduce the range; their aim was to replace a slow-seller with a best-seller.  The replacement should therefore please both new customers and stalwarts of the old product – a hard bill to fit!

The categories to which they were wanting to add references were the those showing the highest growth, yes – but also categories comprising disproportionately few SKUS, compared to competitors, and categories where sales were strong and steady (to prevent this sort of category becoming stale, they wanted newness – exciting launches and for the products that are not pulling their weight to be discontinued).

It was really fascinating!

When I looked out of the window this morning, the cherry outside had blossomed dawn-pink. And this was set against the sunset-orange flowers of the shrub beneath. It was so striking I had to take the picture above. And in many ways, the prints in store at the moment reflect these clashing florals. I think the below are particularly beautiful:

Floral Patchwork Print Dress Markus Lupfer £315, Botanical Print Dress Warehouse £65, Shard Rose Print Dress Paul Smith £320, Wisteria & Violet Cologne Alex Monroe £82, Hand Decorated Easter Eggs Fortnum & Mason from £39.95 each

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

For various reasons, my manager recently asked me to compare this month's sales to this month last year's sales, for active SKUs alone.

First, I ran a report for each period and formatted the hellish mess out of them (our EPOS generates some pretty cluttered reports!) Then I reinserted products that have been deleted and are no longer recognised. I compiled both reports and removed the duplicates (to get one comprehensive list of all products sold). I sorted by a part of the product code, to separate out the categories. Finally I vlooked-up (or vlookuped?) status and sorted discontinued/newly-launched product to the bottom.

When it was looking a bit better, I pulled in the sales by value and by unit for 2013 and 2014. After this, I calculated the % difference (by value and by unit) for each product, the % difference by category, and the % difference by category taking into account only active products (it was the last one we were really interested in). To finish, I calculated % difference across all products and across all active products.

What I found was really useful and really positive: strong growth, particularly in active SKUs. And my manager has asked me to do this every month going forward - no small task, but I am pretty proud to have devised a report he appreciates.

Last post, I pulled together some 'botanical illustration' floral prints. I'm not branching out too much this week - I've focussed on floral pencil-drawing prints. Hope you like:

Esprit Printed Cotton Trousers £55, Uniqlo Modal Linen Blended T-Shirt £9.90, Alexander Wang Patent-Leather Loafers £565, Miller Harris Fleur du Matin from £65, Diptyque Rich Body Butter £50, Cowshed Knackered Cow Relaxing Body Lotion £18, Sanderson Anise Wallpaper from £46, Cole and Son Frontier Water Lily Wallpaper from £72

Monday, 17 March 2014

Spring is, all things considered, a fairly calm time in merchandising. There are, nevertheless, a couple of events to keep you on your toes:

First, there's Valentine's day on 14th February. This can take you by surprise after Christmas, if you're not careful!

On 8th March, it's International Women's Day. In Italy, custom has it you give little bunches of mimosa which you purchase from street sellers. There's something charmingly 19th-century about this, if you ask me!

Next, you have Mothering Sunday in the UK. The date changes from year to year, being as it is the fourth Sunday before Easter. (It was once the day you returned to your mother church, with gifts for family and friends: simnel cake and hedgerow flowers picked along the way.) This year, it is 30th March.

And then of course you have Easter (which falls on 20th April this year) and the bank and school holidays that coincide with it.

On 1st May, the French celebrate the Fete de Travail. A little like Women's Day in Italy, it is traditional to give lily of the valley. Many countries have public holidays on this date as well.

After this, Mother's Day takes place on the first, second or fourth Sunday May (i.e. 4th, 11th or 25th May 2014) in many countries.

Before each event, it's important to check your levels of anything anyone could feasibly buy as a gift. Then you should know if there'll be any marketing activity going on. I like to keep an eye on florals, springtime fragrances and colours as well.
Perhaps not so calm after all!

I know there are gaping omissions in the calendar above. These are just the events that affect me most. Every merchandiser has a different year and every year is different to the next.
What would you add? What events generate the most excitement and activity for your company?

Anyway, here's are some pretty spring-y products available at the moment:

Fragrance Free Night Cream 50ml and Lily Detox Mask 75ml Estelle & Thild £32 and £35; Stencil Floral Print Shirt Warehouse £42; Deavon Floral Printed Dress Ted Baker £189; Wildflower Twill Shorts Stella McCartney £465; Spring Meadow Dining Bowl, Creamer, Cappuccino Cup and Pasta Bowl Marks and Spencer from £7.50

Friday, 28 February 2014

I've just been assigned two new, exciting tasks.

First, I'm taking responsibility for replenishing our international warehouses. The principle is logical enough: we look at last year's monthly sales and produce a prediction for this year; as we start to receive sales figures, we tweek our forecast; then we send the warehouses a certain number of month's stock, plus a certain percentage of cover. There's a bit of pressure: it can take several months for sea-freights to reach far-away warehouses, so it's important nothing is forgotten or under-forecasted.

The second new duty is reporting on the inventory mix in each of these warehouses. We want to make the inventory more reflective of sales. This involves grouping the stock on hand according to certain attributes (e.g. products that are a certain category, that are in a certain band of sales ranks) and calculating the value of each group. Then we compare our findings to our sales figures and highlight areas of concern. Wholesale teams on the ground will try to tackle these issues and, if my replenishment is good, the inventory will be truer to the business.

So new year, new challenges. I'll have to manage my time well, but it feels good to stretch my merchandising wings!

Weather-wise, my February has been pretty grim. Here's the sort of outfit it made me want to wear: grey with little a beam of sunshine yellow.

Next Two-Part Shoes £30, Sacai Luck Sweater £255, Twig Harry Blanket £98, Bronte Pinstripe Blanket £85, Twig Jessie Blanket £98, French Connection Distressed Jeans £89, Shiseido Luminizing Satin Eye Colour £23.50, Poppy King Vesuvius Liquid Lipstick £22 (soon to be available from Space NK), Nars Larger Than Life Eyeliner £19

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

I've booked some tickets to see Casablanca in one of the railway arches at Vauxhall next Sunday: a slightly Valentines-y activity!

Casablanca is a film I've not watched since I was quite young, so I'm really looking forward to it. I've read a fair few articles about Ingrid Bergman recently and come across a couple more of her films. I really respect her; there was such intensity in her acting, and she had such integrity. The part of Casablanca when she explains why she left Rick in Paris, and asks him to give her the transit papers, will be wonderful to re-watch, as will the final scene when Rick insists she leave for Lisbon.

If you are wanting to emulate Bergman (I know I will be after Sunday!), here are a couple of good purchases:

Helena Rubinstein Surrealist Everfresh Mascara from £35 and Eyebrow Powder-Gel in Charcoal Grey from £28; Chanel Poudre Universelle in Naturel £33 and Rouge Allure Lipstick, Enigmatique £25; Burberry Nail Varnish in Sage Green and Pale Yellow £15; Paul Smith Silk Scarf £125 (this print is probably more 50s, but so I though it so beautiful, I couldn't not include it!); Moroccan tea pot (you can find one similar at the Comptoir Libanais)

So - happy Valentine's day!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Christmas and the winter sales are hardly over and Valentine's day is already upon us!

The stores all have ample stock of the products presented in our February windows. I've looked at last year's sales and made doubly sure that their ideal stock levels (to which they are topped up each time they place an order) won't leave them exposed to stockouts before they receive their next order. And I've been consulting store managers - asking if there's anything they think might outperform.

So hopefully everything will go well - though the course of love never did run smooth, there are bound to be one or two misadventures.

Here's a selection of rose-scented and rosey-hued beauty products that should charm the most valentine's-averse. Serge Lutens' Sa magesté, la Rose is a lovely fresh soliflore, while La Fille de Berlin is a more peppery rose. The spectacular magenta of the latter makes it a wonderful gift to unwrap. £69 for 50ml from Liberty.

Scotch naturals produce water-based nail varnishes, with a wide selection of natural, floral colours, as well as some show stoppers. Atholl Brose (not very pink, but a gorgeous name) and Tartan Swizzler £14 from

Paris brand, Marinho, is also doing something quite exciting - with the purchase of a Mini M UV lamp, an undercoat and a varnish, you have the world of flawless, gel manicures at your finger tips. €145 for the lamp, €18 for the base and varnishes (here, La Favorite and Le QQ/First Class) from Le Bon Marche.

New to John Lewis, Japonesque - which dates back 25 years and is influenced by Kabui-theatre make-up - is an esoteric, exotic cosmetic brand. It gives exceptional texture, has super staying-power and each item comes in a unique container with beautiful hand-injected gel fascia. Their Velvet Touch Blush (£18, John Lewis) gives you real rosebud cheeks.

Well - have a lovely lead up to Valentine's.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Sale, in France at least, is about to get under way. It was difficult to say when sale started in the UK, what with pre-Christmas offers and then '50% off' to be seen in windows as early as the 21st. By 26th, some stores were on their second markdown. Lacked punchy opening and climax - but it pulled up the figures a bit.

In France, everything is very regulated, so despite the bad Christmas, sale starts tomorrow.
We have a package of promotions - various percentage discounts on several selections of stock. Should go well.

I'm going to get down to some in-depth analysis tomorrow, but for now again, I'm just waiting.
So to pass the time, here's my pick of the remnants of the sales here and the sale in its first flush in France.

Shu Uemura, Bon Marché, Anti/Oxi Cleansing Oil and UV Underbase Mousse by Takashi Murakam, €70.40 from €88 (their classic A/O Oil and Underbase Mousse, but 20% off); Paul & Joe Beauty,, Pressed Powder Compact with UV Protection £17.50 from £28, Lipstick Refill £10.50 from £14 (what better excuse to buy a beautiful case!); Kusmi Tea – receive a free wellness tea for every €30 spent on their site; Orla Kiely, Forest Flower Wash Bags, £44.80 from £66