Retail planning and buying by definition is a forward-looking exercise. At a time when the world is dealing with a widespread pandemic, death tolls mounting every day and unemployment figures rising at a staggering pace, it’s hard to think about the future. Even when we do, it’s hard to predict what will happen and when businesses will return to some semblance of normal.
Yet, that’s exactly what retail buyers and planners must do now to prepare for upcoming store reopenings, even though the when and the how stores will reopen are still hotly debated. Whatever the timeline, retailers are faced with aged inventory in all their stores and other sales channels, supply chain disruptions, changes in their OTB, and uncertainty in just how much rebound they’ll see in upcoming months.
Retail planning usually starts with an analysis of history, past selling patterns, and predicting customer behavior. But we’re in unprecedented times, where history will not be useful and what our customers will do, how quickly they will return, and how much they will spend is largely unknown.
We can be comforted with one certainty though, that sometime in the not too distant future, businesses will begin to reopen. Shops, city centers, shopping malls will begin to emerge, slowly, cautiously, and gradually as customers who are likely still practicing physical distancing, begin to step out and reengage with people outside the confines of their home.
For those of us in retail, now is no time for the weary. We need to be setting our sights on preparing for that reopening day, and set motions in place today to ensure the store reopenings are as smooth as possible. But that’s easier said than done. Questions loom.
- What do we do with the inventories we have in stores, in distribution centers (DCs), and in transit?
- How much of the orders already in progress or committed can or should be cancelled?
- What does my OTB look like for the rest of the year?
- And most importantly, how do I reopen my stores with limited inventories that’ll attract and engage customers?
In this multi-part series, Bill Booth, daVinci Retail’s business solutions architect put together a practical set of recommendations for you to consider as you journey into this never before charted territory in retail planning. We hope they serve as an alternative checklist, or provide additional ideas and nuances for consideration and action that puts you in a better-prepared state of readiness to open for business in the coming months. We’ll explore strategies on:
- how to make the most out of the inventory you now own
- how to position yourself for your biggest opportunities (Q3 and Q4)
- how to plan for fiscal 2021 when you are data challenged
The strategies discussed here are tailored for specialty retailers with multi doors/sales channels, whose fiscal year ended January 31st, 2020. The merchandise financial plans for this year were completed before the store closures. Sales have been actualizing since February with less than stellar results for March, due to the pandemic. Since the coronavirus situation is changing daily, it is not possible to predict with certainty when businesses will return. For the purposes of these articles, we’re assuming an early June timeline.