How to Win in Your Most Strategic Categories (Part I)

When I was VP of Brand Planning at Limited Brands, one of my team’s core responsibilities was to help with the merchandising strategies for several key business units. The main thrust was to develop plans and inculcate disciplines that would drive large-scale growth and achieve absolute dominance in specific strategic merchandise categories. These were big businesses, and our CEO Les Wexner, who drove these engagements, would devote substantial corporate resources to these efforts because he envisioned (and frequently realized) topline gains in half-billion dollar increments.

One of the key components in these assignments was in-depth competitor study, “competitive patterning.” During key selling periods for a target category, we would go into competitor stores and analyze their assortments by counting and classifying styles and measuring unit depth. We would analyze their displays, messaging and promotion and catalog best practices. Importantly, we would not just report our findings, but integrate what we knew about emerging brands, identify white space, build a merchandise architecture, and craft coordinated plans across design, merchandising, marketing and stores. (We integrated other components as well – topics for later posts…)

Many retailers today have a data collection and hindsight process to measure and gauge elements of this. Our experience with these hindsight meetings – and we’ve attended many of them — is that often the research is done a bit late, the findings are impressionistic, and the “so whats” are insufficient to move the needle.

Mōd Advisors now offers a comprehensive “strategic patterning” service to retailers and brands. On assignment recently in September, our team canvassed malls in four cities and studied the assortments and messaging for a core category across eight competitors. We counted the depth and breadth of assortments, in-store and online. We cataloged their core messages presented in-store, online and in fashion magazines. Our analysis, filtered through a merchant lens, uncovered obvious white space for certain retailers. And we found some very fixable gaps in execution and messaging.

Contact Mōd now to get your Holiday patterning done. Why not win?