Jessica Needle

Recent Posts

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

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

A New Mentality: Advanced Analytics for the 'New Retail'

It’s a telling time for retail. In spite of the brief reassurance from last year’s unexpected boost in sales, there’s still a lot of work to do. A fundamental shift in the way things were done in the past is finally unraveling across the industry, and is best encompassed by one recent announcement from Nordstrom after their Q4 earnings reports:

“Nordstrom will no longer separately report sales made online and in-store when releasing financial results. The Seattle-based retailer announced the change Thursday as it reported its fourth-quarter and year-end earnings. Nordstrom said reporting the sales figures as one allows it to more closely represent the company's focus on brands rather than channels, Chief Financial Officer Anne Bramman said. The change is part of a larger shift away from the legacy store view of its business to an omnichannel view that combines the physical and digital experiences, she said.”The Puget Sound Business Journal

This announcement is powerfully revealing to the position many retailers are in today. Many are at a crossroads where they can either sink or swim against the forceful current of increasingly complex consumer expectations and demands.

The fact a major retailer like Nordstrom is combining earnings from both online and offline only goes to show they’re swimming hard against this current—and a better representation of how they’re delivering to customers is necessary to stay afloat and strategically execute properly.  

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Topics: omnichannel, artificial intelligence, inventory optimization, machine learning

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