Today, we’re launching a new section of the newsletter called Double//Vision, which bridges the gap between corporate retail employees and frontline retail leaders.

In this week’s Double//Vision, we’ll take a look at different sides of merchandising decisions and how both parties can benefit from each other’s perspective.

Depending on your industry, merchandising refreshes happen frequently—usually anywhere from monthly to a couple of times a quarter. These refreshes are important because they give the stores a fresh feel, allow new products to be on the floor and allow older products to move to a different area, which may impact performance.

However, there is tension around merchandising refreshes. While the frontline leaders and the corporate support employees have the same goal—for the store to succeed—there can be a subset of goals on either side that can place the store team and the corporate team at odds.

The Frontline Leader Mindset

As a frontline leader, you know your customer better than anyone. You’re a student of your store environment and the way customers move through that environment. You know where all of the dead zones are and where customers naturally gravitate. You are also a student of your business, diligently checking sell-through reports and top SKUs each week.

Your main objective is to run a successful store and to present product in a compelling way. Traditionally, merchandise refreshes are dictated by the corporate team and sent to the store team to execute. This can be a tough pill to swallow when an item that you know is not a customer favorite is moved to a more central position or when a best seller is set to be pulled off the floor.

The Corporate Mindset

As corporate support, you have a bird’s eye view of retail. You likely support multiple stores in different geographies with different customers. One of your main objectives is brand consistency, which admittedly can be tough to administer with divergent stores and unique customer bases.

With a merchandising refresh, you want to ensure that the brand is represented in a consistent way across all stores. This usually means sending a standardized merchandising map for all stores to follow. Additionally, you have a line-of-sight to what products are coming in the future, which will affect some of your decisions. For example, you might know that a specific product is going to be discontinued and needs to be consolidated at the top store to sell-through it.

Take a walk

To the other side of the table, that is. Before embarking on your next re-merch, consider the goals: to present the products in an appealing and brand-appropriate way; to present products in a consistent way across all stores; to present the right products in the right places so that customers will be enticed to purchase them.

Once you understand these perspectives, you can consider how you can best accomplish everyone’s goals:

  • As a corporate employee, you might want to have a discussion with all of the frontline leaders before the merchandising refresh is finalized to gather feedback and make adjustments.
  • As a frontline leader, you could proactively communicate to your corporate support team what you would like to accomplish in the next merchandising refresh (i.e. customers have been requesting more shorts or a certain color, etc).
    It is easy to become siloed in your environment. Taking a walk to the other side of the table will give you a more global perspective.
    If there’s no time to communicate and adjust beforehand, you can always try to understand merchandising decisions after the fact, and potentially compromise.
  • As a corporate employee, you can find out how this refresh will benefit or harm the store and work toward a compromise. For example, if a top seller has been moved to a less focal area, have the store try the new refresh set for three weeks, tracking sales progress of that item and of the store as a whole. If there is a significantly negative impact on the business, have the store propose what they would change.
  • As a store leader reach out to your corporate team with evidence-based, constructive feedback after you’ve executed the merchandising set. Highlight what is working for your store and what you have concerns about. Be sure to bring in past data on top sellers and store traffic to make your case. In this way, you become an ally and an asset to your corporate support team which will benefit more than just your store.

These are a few things you can try to increase your Double//Vision.