Use these fashion merchandising reporting tips to quickly prepare for your in-season retail trade meeting, every Monday.
Sunday scaries. Smonday. Monday blues.
If you work in fashion merchandising, chances are you’ve experienced these night-before symptoms. Monday morning means it’s time for the weekly retail trade meeting, usually scheduled at a time that makes it humanly impossible to pull all your reporting and analysis together.
POV Merchandiser: You arrive at the office early, because you want a head start but… amongst other things, the data hasn’t been refreshed from the previous week. With stress levels peaking, an hour later you eventually begin your day at the usual time. Great.
Slicing, dicing, pivoting and amending endless rows in excel to illustrate your narrative. Hang on, are you even working in the correct version of the file? You attempt to pull the stock information from a separate system to add to your sales data, followed by excel’s dreaded spinning wheel of death… and everything is gone. Once you FINALLY have the data the way you want it… um, what is it you should be looking for again? Sound familiar?
Reporting shouldn’t be stressful, scary, or take up your entire day. To reduce your legwork, here we run through what to report within your retail business to alleviate those nerves and present your findings cool as a cucumber.
What is in-season trade?
If you're a newbie to the retail game, in-season trade or retail trade meetings are a key part of the retail merchandising function. They help the whole team understand how your business is trading during the season and usually take place weekly on a Monday morning.
Pending the size of the business, management may provide a top line view of total business performance. Department managers, buyers, merchandisers and or planners report on the previous week's sales and other KPIs used to monitor performance and discuss actions based on the results.
What is the purpose of in-season trade meetings?
There are three main purposes of the in-season trade meeting:
1. Review trade performance - against set KPIs
2. Decide trade actions - What items need replenishing? What needs to be added to clearance? A category not performing and you are not sure why? Do you need to conduct a deep dive to see where the issues are?
3. Align on urgent tasks for the week - This may involve chasing more stock, or pulling items forward to protect the following week’s or month's intake
What are the benefits of in-season trade?
You are essentially keeping your finger on the ever-changing retail pulse. Imagine discovering a trend you invested heavily into switched off months ago and now you are left with a large pile of overstock to clear. Performing a weekly in-season trade meeting will ensure no surprises at the end of the season.
When you arrive at the end of the season and conducting the post-season analysis, your narrative is done for you. After all, you have been talking about your business in trade every week for 6 months, so half the work is already done.
Weekly trade will also help you to:
- Remain proactive and identify opportunities - if you’re reacting, you’re often too late
- Identify and mitigate risks early - spot an underperforming style, cut your losses and mark it down
- Ensure team alignment - one department overperforming and another underperforming? How can the two departments work together to ensure top line goals are met? Shifting replenishment funds from one department to another immediately springs to mind.
What are the common obstacles?
To run a successful trade meeting you need solid data. Using multiple data sources to build reports can be a time-consuming nightmare. But, without solid reporting, your decisions won’t have legs.
Data integrity is one of the biggest challenges faced by retailers.
- multiple versions of the same document meaning no source of truth,
- loss of changes from version to version and person to person,
- or even worse human errors such as accidental data deletion, and bad formulas can cost the business valuable profit.
Multiple data sources make life hard. Unless you have a system to collate the information for you. If you have ever worked for a company where sales and stock were held in completely different systems, then you know how long it takes to download and merge excel spreadsheets together before you even start to make sense of what the data is telling you. (Don't even get me started on stock in transit.)
Most people give up and move on to the next task when things become too arduous. But at what cost!?
Conveniently, retail software like Style Arcade resolves these issues:
- One source of truth
- Data refreshed daily
- Contains product IMAGES
- Ability to create and save reports so you have control of the data you view
- We even make intelligent recommendations on how to manage your business
What to include in your in-season trade reporting?
Now that your data is up and running and good to go, it's time to make sense of what the data means and tell your trade story to the wider business and team using retail analytics.
There are a number of metrics that can be analyzed to help you to understand what is happening inside your business. Without these insights, it’s impossible to make informed decisions on what actions need to be taken to keep your trade on track. It’s a race to the finish line and you want to finish ahead.
Performance YTD, MTD, LW
Whether you’re analysing the overall performance of your department this year, month and last week, you’ll want to compare the budget and forecast or planned sales.
Example: Womenswear took $X amount of sales which was +10% to LY and +5% to budget MTD
Sales dollars and units
Start by answering these common questions your team is probably wondering about:
- How much revenue did you generate in sales and units vs the previous week?
- What was the variance?
- Did you see a lift or decline in sales vs the previous week?
- What was driving your sales up or down?
Once you have your answers, consider the WHY.
Try reflecting on the below if your sales were up vs the previous week:
- Did newness launch?
- Were you running a promotion?
- Did replenishment land of a best-selling style?
And if your sales were down vs the previous week:
- Was this in line with the total company?
- Are you running low on stock?
- Perhaps it was the week following a promo so you expected to see a dip in sales
- Did the weather impact your performance (c’mon, La Nina has its effects on bikinis)
- Was it competitor activity?
Accessing this data in Style Arcade is a breeze. Simply head over to the "Discover" tab, update your time filters and the work is done for you.
Channel & store performance
Pitting the online team against the store team? How could you! Seriously though, seeing who’s clicking and who’s on foot is imperative to merchandising. Consider answering the following questions with data to report back with.
- What percentage of sales were coming from eCommerce vs in-store. Has there been a shift and what is driving the shift?
- One channel or store overachieving and another struggling?
- Is there an opportunity to rebalance stock between the channels/stores to make your inventory work harder for you and keep up momentum?
Head to Rollups, refresh your saved report and view the data for the relevant time frame.
What categories are driving your business forward? Then you want to drop it down to the next level to view what products within your business are accelerating the category. There’s also an opportunity to view subcategories.
Work for a multi-branded retailer? Who are your top sales-driving brands and what percentage of the business are they driving?
It’s interesting to see what mix of sales the top brands drive for you. It’s not surprising if you find 80% of sales come from 20% of brands.
Full price vs markdown performance
During sale periods you should be reporting on how your clearance sale is performing. You would expect to see a shift between the contribution between full price and mark-down sales mix. Sell-through is key here, you want to know how quickly you are clearing through the dead stock.
Best and worst sellers
What are your best and worst-performing products? Best sellers usually drive high sales dollars and profit for your business but it doesn’t necessarily mean they drive the highest volume. It's all dependent on price point. Keep this in mind when deciding how to filter your data:
1. Do you want to see best by sales dollars,
2. best by volume or units,
3. best by profit,
4. or what items had the highest sell-through?
When identifying worst sellers you consider the below:
1. Items with lowest sales units
2. High stock on hand value
3. Low sell-though%
4. Items that deliver low profit
When reviewing product over or under performance it's important to consider your future orders and adjust the incoming quantities where possible to capitalise on opportunities and mitigate risks. Have a similar worst selling style incoming? Now is the time to reduce the quantities or cancel if timing allows on the supplier end.
Look for patterns within your best & worst sellers, what are the similarities between them? What lessons can we learn weekly about our customer and their buying behaviour? These lessons should be applied to future product selections. If history tells us white bodycon dresses don't resonate with our consumer, steer away from selecting similar product in the future.
Style Arcade makes pulling the best & worst sellers a breeze and contains IMAGES, that allow you to identify patterns in literally two clicks. No more cutting and pasting images into an excel doc or driving blind and making assumptions based on rows of excel data. Pictures truly paint a thousand words.
Don’t overlook size availability. I repeat, do not overlook size availability!
All brands should look at what is the minimum number of weeks a product should have all sizes available after launch before it breaks and certain sizes sell out. If your size availability breaks early on, your velocity will slow and you are unquestionably missing sales and who knows how much profit.
If you break in two days, you didn’t buy the right sizes.
If you break in two weeks, you didn’t buy enough in the right sizes.
If you break too quickly, you are missing SALES and PROFIT.
And if you stock core items, you should be in 100% size availability always.
The impact doesn’t end there. Selling out too quickly can make it very difficult to know how much to buy the following season and in what ratio.
Stock management & future orders
Stock vs Sales
The relationship between stock and sales can tell you a lot about how your business is tracking.
Example: Sales are +15% vs LY with Stock +3%
This would be a great result as your sales are outperforming to last year and outperforming stocks.
Safe to say you have achieved results like this because you have completed your post-season analysis and used the findings to build your budgets and alter investments to make your stock work harder for you. Nice.
You can have a negative result and still be okay if your sales are still higher than your stock variance.
Example: Sales -7% vs LY with stock -15%
This tells me, my sales are underperforming vs LY but still outperforming my stock investment.
In both of these instances you would still be replenishing, so you maintain sales that are overperforming to stocks.
If your sales variance to LY is lower than your stock variance, then it’s not a good sign.
Example: sales -15% vs LY with stock at +25%
You purchased 25% more stock than LY but your sales are not consistent. This screams underperformance and you would consider doing a deep dive into the data to find out what styles are not performing well.
Viewing stock vs sales performance in Style Arcade at each level is simple.
To view top line data eg, by total business or category apply the required filters in the discover tab the variances are automatically populated for you.
Intake received at warehouse and future orders
Pending on the company you work for, managing visibility of intake can be one of the most challenging aspects of merchandising. You want to ensure you have enough incoming stock to keep momentum if sales are trading well.
Sales not performing? You will want to know what you have incoming and whether you need to look at reducing quantities (only if possible, ie future orders that have not yet been put into production) to reduce risk.
Example: Category X is turning on 3 weeks cover, but we have just had 200k of intake booked in this morning. OR sweaters are turning on 20 weeks of cover, but we have no further purchase orders placed. Phew!
Replenishment & clearance
This is usually based on the performance of your best and worst-performing categories and products.
- What styles will you look to replenish?
- How much are you planning to spend on replenishment and when will deliveries arrive?
- Any slow movers that need a push?
- Can you engage Marketing?
A new item dropped last week. You ordered 200 units of stock, but sold 100 in the first week, so the item has achieved a 50% sell-through and is turning on one week of cover.
Your aim is to have the item in the business for 8 weeks. Your supplier can deliver immediately, so you place a replenishment order of 900 units.
Say sweaters is a category turning on 20 weeks of cover (ie, it will take 20 weeks to clear at the current rate of sale) and you are 5 weeks out from heading into the new season. You would want to take a closer look at the styles that are slowing up the whole category.
You may suggest a number of styles to place on immediate markdown using the Clear As You Go (CAYG) strategy . Be sure to include the value of the stock. And the discount you would be proposing.
Clear As You Go (CAYG) - is a markdown strategy used by retailers that identifies slow moving product and discounting them early to increase sales velocity and sell through outside of scheduled sale periods.
Check the aged styles tab in Style Arcade for a quick snapshot of your inventory by age (how long its been in the business) and value at cost.
Other departments activities
ECommerce managers know that getting the reporting done right, and done quickly means having the facts to back every single decision you make for the rest of the day, week and month. Nothing reacts faster than events influencing online shoppers which is key to your merchandising strategy. So, if you see your ecomm manager in the zone, best believe they’re looking at the following:
- CR%: How often are your customers buying, and what are they buying? If you’re getting crazy conversions on a particular product, work with your ecomm manager to see if there’s an indication for a replen.
- CTR%: Clicks are currency, and whether it’s through digital ads, social posts or EDMs, from the homepage to the new arrivals, tracking click-throughs means your team knows what’s working and who is coming from where.
- Traffic fluctuations: A bananas Sunday night turned into a ghost town on Monday? Online shopping habits change daily, what happened this time?
- On-Site merchandising: Is the bounce rate indicating the merchandising isn’t compelling? What products are getting a lot of attention without converting and why? What products aren't being seen?
- Model choice: Who is selling your products for you? Do minimal click-throughs or aged stock present the opportunity to reshoot?
- Technical issues: Are the images web-res? Did you prep your site for traffic surges? Do your links go through to where they should? Are your ads delivering to the right audience?
Marketing, PR or Social
When an item that hasn’t been selling suddenly takes off, everyone will ask WHY?
Was it the efforts of your internal marketing team who featured it in last week's EDM? Or did the item blow up on tiktok and go viral #tiktokmademebuyit (one can dream).
Pending the size of your business, you may not always be across what the marketing and PR teams are working on. Never fear, Style Arcade has you covered. The software allows for internal collaboration across departments
Pulling it all together & presenting like a pro
Presenting the retail data doesn’t need to be a nail-biting event.
Our advice: Pre-empt questions management will ask and have answers ready to go. If you spot something interesting in the data chances are management has also seen it and what they will want is the story to go with it.
After all, data is just that. Data. You are the expert that brings the narrative behind the figures. Use the tips above and you can ensure you are covering all bases.
Sounds like a lot right? Style Arcade’s fashion merchandising software eliminates the need to pull and collate retail data. Everything is done for you and refreshed daily so you can rest assured that when you arrive early on Monday morning you are good to go.
One source of truth.
Data refreshed daily.
No time is wasted, allowing you to focus on the fun stuff, like making informed decisions that will ensure growth in revenue and profit for your business.
Want to kiss the Sunday Scaries goodbye? Get in contact with one of our team to discuss how Style Arcade can streamline your Monday mornings.