Retail Advisor Newsletter

Quarterly Newsletter

Spring 2017

Stepping Off The Cowpath

A few days ago a recent RIS News article, titled "The Most Successful Retailer You’ve Never Heard Of” caught my attention. The author, Editor-in-Chief Joe Skorupa, talks about what he calls the “disruptive success” of a fairly new retailer, Xcel Brands. Founded roughly six years ago, the company’s vision is “to reimagine shopping, entertainment, and social as one.” In the midst of one of the most challenging and precarious retail environments we’ve ever seen, this $500M company has managed to achieve tremendous success within a relatively short timeframe through exceptionally innovative strategies, both on the consumer facing side through social media and by leveraging diverse marketing channels and distribution methods, as well as behind the scenes in merchandising, product development, analytics, and a variety of partnerships.

However, for many other retailers, the challenge to win consumers’ wallet share continues to mount, particularly for those who historically were sales and margin leaders. Every day we read about leading brands shuttering low performing stores in droves, while many mainstay retailers are filing or preparing to file for bankruptcy protection. Yet new brands like Xcel are enjoying tremendous success, and we continue to see retailers in the discount world winning the new day—brands like TJX, Ross, Dollar General and Dollar Tree are all on impressive growth trajectories.

One discounter was recently cited as having not just size and scale, but also a very effective buying and merchandising operation that provides major advantages in acquiring effective assortments as well as ensuring efficient store distribution. While traditional department stores and other retailers may still have some advantage in assortment creation and buying, today’s savvy and value conscience consumers have seen that even discount apparel retailer assortments have evolved, and there is less distinction between the availability of brands and selection.

What are some keys to the success of these retailers? Obviously marketing and channel execution are essential, so mobile, digital and unified commerce all come into play. But behind the scenes, we believe enduring success hinges on focused improvements to create efficient and effective processes across planning, buying, allocation, and price management—essentially, retail basics, but reimagined. Retailers must no longer “pave the cowpath,” but take advantage of how the world has changed and forge new ways of operating

While many retail solution vendors tout that their systems will be the panacea for retail woes, we hold strong to the fact that, while exceptional solutions do exist, these must be implemented with transformational business process design to incorporate new ways of thinking and robust change management programs to effectively instill and embrace new processes, organizations and tools. Optimizing business processes and institutionalizing them through professional change management leadership is how we can and do ensure our clients' technology and transformation investments bear fruit.

We also highly recommend that retailers intensify efforts in their data and analytics strategies. Analytics, buoyed by artificial intelligence / machine learning can further optimize investments in retail solutions by helping companies gain a deeper understanding of what consumers want, find price elasticities to maximize profits, optimize assortments, and more.

Many retailers’ traditional cowpaths were useful and effective for a long time. But the world has indeed changed, and we don’t see the pace of retail change slowing any time soon.

If you have any questions about retail challenges your company is facing or would just like to toss around some new ideas, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Robert Kaufman
CEO, The Parker Avery Group

Thought Leadership

Promotional Forecasting:
Reasserting Control Over Retail Promotional Destinies

Despite the best strategic initiatives and promises of customer experience and omnichannel nirvana, many retailers are technologically hamstrung: trying to add modern, configurable and mobile tools on top of outdated and inflexible software...

New Case Studies

Core Merch and Finance Core Merchandising and Finance Solution Selection
Solution evaluation and selection to support industry leading business processes and enable a consistent real-time, global view of inventory...

Omnichannel MFPOmnichannel MFP Implementation
Comprehensive Merchandise Financial Planning solution implementation to optimize retail sales planning and inventory cost planning and enable a holistic, global view of the company...

And don't miss our latest personal commentaries and insights in the Retail Advisor blog.

blogWinning the Value Game
(March 16, 2017)


blogBeyond the Guide: Key Interview Questions
to Ask Retail Candidates

(March 2, 2017)


blogAsk the Experts: Package Selection
(February 23, 2017)


blogThe Softer Side of...Employees
(February 16, 2017)


blogNRF 2017: Shaking up Retail
(January 26, 2017)

Retail Radar

The Parker Avery Group frequently contributes to articles, publications and events beyond our own thought leadership to provide current perspectives and advice to the retail community. We invite you to read the following articles to which we recently contributed or authored:

What Made This Tennis Champion Become an Entrepreneur? Her Dad's Cassette Collection
(Inc., February 2017)

Cutting Costs: 8 Ideas to Lower Retail Expenses Without Killing Product Quality
(Shopify Blog, January 2017)

apparel logoFashion Wholesaling: Dead or Alive?
(Apparel Magazine, December 2016)

The Parker Avery Group is also pleased to announce the promotion of Sonia Hernandez to Partner in the firm.

soniaThe Parker Avery Group Promotes Sonia Hernandez to Partner
Sonia's 20+ years of experience and leadership spans large and small retailers, consulting firms, and retail software companies. Her expertise extends from program management, business process improvement, organizational design and role development, solution selection and implementation, as well as change leadership.

Great Reads

Change Management: Paving the Cowpaths, by Jonathan Byrnes, Senior Lecturer at MIT and an acknowledged authority on profitability management. Non-fiction, business. Published in Fast Company. Change management is one of the most difficult problems facing managers at all levels.

Shaken: Discovering Your True Identity in the Midst of Life's Storms, by Tim Tebow, two-time national champion, first round NFL draft pick, and Heisman trophy winner. Non-fiction, inspirational. When we are grounded in the truth, we can endure the tough times.

Irresistible: The Rise of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, by Adam Alter, Associate Professor of Marketing and Psychology at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Non-fiction, consumer behavior. The rise of behavioral addiction why so many of today’s products are irresistible.

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