Part One: Q&A with Aéropostale’s SVP of Planning & Allocation

"The customer is dictating the way they want to shop and what their new level of service is—we just all need to catch up to them.” Karen Walter, SVP of Planning & Allocation at Aéropostale 

Retailers have more data than ever before.

However, introducing new technology to leverage data more effectively throughout the merchandising process is a daunting—yet critical task.

In our latest webcast, we had the opportunity to sit down with Aéropostale’s SVP of Planning and AllocationKaren Walter, who shed some light on:

  • Why and how Aéropostale adopted advanced analytics in today’s retail environment
  • A new approach to the Merchandise, Planning, and Allocation process
  • How new technologies are blended with existing business process

Check out the the first part of the Q&A transcript below, where Karen shares her experience and thoughts on how the Planning & Allocation side of the business (and retail overall!) has evolved, as well as some of her biggest influencers throughout her career.

You can (of course) access the full video interview here

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Topics: allocation, predictive analytics, merchandise planning, inventory optimization, data, advanced analytics

How to be Michelangelo in Today's Retail Renaissance

Most news outlets seem to cover the changing retail landscape with near-weekly stories on store closings and bankruptcy filings. Even outside of the fact that articles with high click-rates beget other similar articles, which in the case of retail generally include household names with a significant nostalgic punch—there certainly is a dramatic change in the industry. However, we should not take stock in those with signs proclaiming “the end is near” for retail any more than we do the madman in front of the park fountain.

One of our customers’ CEOs recently told his leadership that he’s tired of hearing about “The Retail Apocalypse.” He pointed out the fact that it’s become such a ridiculously exaggerated topic, it even has its own Wikipedia page. Given the industry we’re in, this naturally made it worth a look. 

What’s interesting isn’t the fact that retail is changing, or that the general public and media have mischaracterized the evolution. What is interesting is when you look at the factors contributing to this change, understand their impact, and – most importantly — understand how to combat them in order to thrive in the face of this “New Retail” environment.

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Topics: e-commerce, inventory optimization, brick-and-mortar retail, retail renaissance, retail apocalypse

3 Ways Ship From Store Fulfillment Can Help Master Cross-Channel Demand

Unfortunately, anticipating demand isn’t as straight-forward as it once was. People shop whenever and wherever, leveraging each and every available retail channel.

This makes it really difficult for retailers nowadays.

Increased access also increases consumer expectations across channels—shoppers expect a seamless experience and alignment among brands, products, and choices both physically and digitally. To keep up, retailers must enable a cohesive cross-channel experience through their offerings, including product assortment, purchase, delivery, and return options. 

However, it’s really difficult for retailers to provide this seamless, integrated experience in a profitable way.

Unfortunately, you have no choice.

Mastering cross-channel demand is critical if you want to succeed in the retail industry, despite the challenges it presents. 

This is why many retailers today are incorporating a ship-from-store (SFS) strategy to help overcome the difficulties cross-channel demand entails. The key advantage of SFS (if done right) is that it allows retailers to provide the differentiated experience consumers seek via better delivery offerings, in a profitable and cost-effective way.

Here are 3 ways ship from store fulfillment can help retailers master cross-channel demand:

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Topics: shipping, e-commerce, ship-from-store, inventory optimization, order delivery, fulfillment optimization, cross-channel demand

Retail Safety Stock – Do You Even Need It?

“Determining appropriate inventory levels is one of the most important and most challenging tasks faced by operations managers. If you carry too much inventory, you tie up money in working capital; if you don’t carry enough inventory, you face stockouts.”Crack the Code: Understanding Safety Stock and Mastering Its Equations, MIT

Overstocks and out-of-stocks. A double-edged sword.

If your store runs out of product when unexpected demand hits the fence, it’s a missed opportunity. On the other hand, a store stocked with too much product almost always leads to markdowns and profit loss—another missed opportunity.

This is how the typical song and dance between planning for inventory safety stocks goes. Traditionally, retailers try to anticipate fluctuations in future demand, yet, most of the time, fail to do so accurately.

Given the recent pressures across the industry to improve performance as margins shrink and store foot traffic falls—retailers are scrambling to improve sell-through rates, decrease markdowns, and increase profit. Which is challenging when you’re constantly making the wrong bets in the wrong places.

The art of finding this balance between making sure you have the right inventory on hand is HARD.

In fact, it’s one of the biggest challenges retailers face today, and, in the most simplistic terms—it’s having the right product, at the right place, at the right time.

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Topics: e-commerce, inventory optimization, order delivery, safety stock, fulfillment optimization

Solving for Today's Retail Order Fulfillment Dilemma 

The future of retail relies heavily on fulfillment.

Over the past decade, delivery expectations have surged. Two-day and one-day shipping is emerging as the new norm. Retailers continue to move towards shorter delivery times, yet most cannot deliver products profitably within three to five days.

At NRF earlier this year, our CTO, Vivek Farias, made a bold prediction: within the next ten years, two-hour delivery is going to be table stakes.  

Retailers are at a point where the failure to provide options for quick delivery comes with the risk of losing a sale. This shouldn’t come as a surprise for those in the industry, yet looking at the actual stats is always mind-boggling: 

  • About 72% of consumers factor in two-day delivery to help decide whether or not to make an online purchase.
  • About 45% of consumers factor in one to two-hour delivery to help decide whether or not to make an online purchase.

Given this data, maybe Vivek’s prediction isn’t so bold. 

It’s completely reasonable, and retailers need to prepare for deliver on these expectations in order to survive.

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Topics: omnichannel, fulfillment, ship-from-store, inventory optimization, supply chain

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