Art Meets Data

In my previous blog, I talked about the significance of analyzing data to make more informed decisions when building and maintaining your assortment. The best merchants have a good balance of being analytical AND being creative. This is where art meets data!

Throughout my retail career, I have worked with some amazing merchants. Those that had their eye on a trend, long before anyone else saw it coming. Those that could easily interpret customer trends with a little bit of data, and a whole lot of instinct. While everyone else was wrapped up in the numbers, they were moving onto how big the new program could be.

The important part, every time, is to be sure the product assortment is:

  • What the customer wants
  • Consistent with your brand

Beyond the data and looking from a much more subjective point of view, the opportunity exists to continue to deliver powerful assortments your customers will love! And keep them coming back for more!

10 Things a Merchant Should Consider when Creating Product Assortment

1. Updates to Prove Styles

Take the “tried and true” styles and update them with slight adjustments to keep the customer coming back. If last year’s fashion sweater was cotton, long sleeve, crew neck and offered in black, grey, and red, maybe a color update is all you need. Maybe you want to change from a long sleeve to a ¾ sleeve. I typically would recommend ONE changed feature per update – that’s often all you need to make it “new”.

2. Keep It Fresh

The importance of offering a new, fresh product on a regular basis is critical in keeping up with the competition. Depending upon your customer traffic patterns, this could be daily, weekly or monthly. Online shopping behavior has really pushed retailers to be relevant every day. We all have websites that we frequent daily, where we are looking for the most updated offering. If I know certain stores have more frequent deliveries, I will visit more often to see what is new. A great potential way to keep interest in BOTH online and stores, may be to offer not just ‘online only’, but ‘in-store only’ assortment as well.

3. Stock the Basics

While many merchants want to bring in the latest and greatest, the importance of assorting and stocking basics is critical! Customers come to rely upon you as their place to buy white t-shirts or a basic type of yogurt. If customers are relying on you to always have select items in stock, keep it in the assortment. Your customers are counting on you as their “go-to” location.

4. Be Unique

Differentiate your assortment from your competitors. Perhaps there is a select brand or category that is different from others. Or a unique service that you offer to separate you from others.

5. Seasonal/Gift Giving

There is often an opportunity to increase your customers’ basket by offering seasonal product that is “set and sell” to maximize traffic. The customer may not be visiting your store or website looking for this specific product, but there is always great opportunity to sell gifts around the holidays.

6. Do Testing

If you are reluctant to invest inventory in a new or unknown product classification or style, a great way to quickly gauge interest is ‘testing’. Select a group of stores or offer an additional assortment online, in limited quantities. Your messaging around it should create a sense of urgency. Message ‘limited time only’ – I don’t’ know about you, but that one gets me EVERY TIME! You can also test different pricing options to determine what the customer is willing to pay for a product.

7. Think Promotions

Like seasonal or gift-giving, offering unique promotional deals is a great option to keep up with competition. Great examples of this are Black Friday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or 4th of July. Identify times when you want to build traffic into your store. And be willing to offer a promotional deal. Be sure to differentiate this product from your core assortment and communicate the ‘limited time value’.

8. Have Balance

Your customer most likely will want an assortment of good/better/best to choose from, along with options. Those options include color, flavor, size, style, trends, material, etc. The list goes on and on. It’s important to give your customer a focused assortment yet make them feel as if they have options.

9. Tell Stories

Tell a story about your product. Customers love to hear about who influenced the idea, where the product was made and who made it. Customers want to hear the story and tell it to others.

10. Presentation is Key

Great merchandising professionals always have a point of view on how the product will be presented. Whether how it is shown on the website or in stores, features and benefits are a very important part of educating your customer. Key presentation points in your store or your website home page provide a great location to show off your best or coolest assortments.


As you can see, assortment planning really takes as much art and creativity as it does analytical insight. Let ‘ART MEET DATA’ and have fun building your product assortment today!

Download the eBook. Learn the Do’s and Don’ts to ensure your retail inventory strategy aligns to your assortment and how to create a retail assortment presentation that’s appealing to customers