Creating A Bestselling Assortment Strategy Every Time

Creating A Bestselling Assortment Strategy Every Time

Written by AnnaOctober 19, 2018

Creating A Bestselling Assortment Strategy Every Time

In today’s highly competitive retail environment, every brand and retailer needs a strong assortment strategy to stand out from the pack.

Just like in any segment within retail, the product is king and this is especially true in the fashion industry. Investing in the wrong products will not only lead major overstocking problems but also brand dilution, wasted resources and disappointed customers.

Beyond just curating the right products for your shelves, the assortment strategy is tied to multiple functions in fashion retail including inventory management, visual merchandising, marketing and promotions.

Therefore, it is important to ensure your assortment strategy is aligned with consumer needs and optimised for the current market.

Monitoring market movements helps you to understand in-demand products or potential trends that resonate with your customers.

Here are three key considerations for your future assortment planning.

Identify and Validate Top-performing Trends

Building an assortment in an industry with ever-changing trends is challenging, as it can be tough to separate top-performing trends from short-lived fads.

From designers’ runway creations to the latest influencers’ and celebrities’ social media postings, the understanding of what’s ‘trending’ isn’t always so straightforward.

Therein lies the issue.

Identifying a trend is only half the equation. Validating it makes the other and is arguably the more important half when it comes to attaining sales and profits.

Introducing a particular product into your assortment with a baseless assumption that it will sell could potentially lead to plenty of deadstock at the end of the season.

So how do you validate if a trend truly one that’s selling?

For instance, joggers are now a closet staple in an era of social distancing.

Aside from leaving the house for essential activities, today’s consumers prioritise comfort over anything as they stay sequestered in. Especially with much of work and studying taking place online, categories like suits have now grown irrelevant while loungewear takes precedence.

Trend performance of joggers in the UK and US - Creating A Best-selling Assortment Strategy Every Time
Trend performance of joggers in the UK and US, from January to August 2020. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

As seen in the chart above, demand for joggers began to rise in late March coinciding with the stay-at-home order in the US and UK. Although its popularity fluctuated during the period of analysis, joggers consistently outperformed the wider pants & leggings category that was on a downwards trend.

Urban Outfitters' Jackson Utility Jogger from February 2020 - Creating A Best-selling Assortment Strategy Every Time
Urban Outfitters’ Jackson Utility Jogger from February 2020. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

This pair of orange joggers from Urban Outfitters was first stocked in February. Up to August, we can see the product had been sold out 20 times and soon followed by a new round of replenishment despite its higher than average price and having no discounts to drive up purchases.

By studying the stock movement of key trends like joggers, you will be able to pick out the trends from the fads, based on product performance.

Action Plan for Declining Trends

Top-performing trends are one thing, declining ones are an entirely different issue. When it comes to planning your next collection, understanding the performance of trends over a specific timeline is crucial.

Trends shift quickly so knowing which stage a particular trend is at in its life cycle will help you determine your next steps. In this case, if a trend is declining, you can immediately start hashing out the best exit strategy without resorting to high discounts.

Animal print is an example of a declining trend, as the once-popular pattern has been slowly losing its prominence within the span of a few months.

The trend performance of animal print from January to August 2020 - Creating A Best-selling Assortment Strategy Every Time
The trend performance of animal print from January to August 2020. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

As shown in the graph above, animal prints commanded higher demand at the beginning of the year but began declining in Q2.

In this case, there are three scenarios:

  1. If you are still in the planning stage of your assortment:  determine if this is still worth the investment by the time you launch your collection. If not, it is probably best to look toward a trend that is moving upwards.
  2. If this particular trend is already in its production phase: look towards pricing strategies and perhaps lower its entry price.
  3. If you are currently stocking this: start clearance early at an optimum discount range to ensure profits.

Understanding this is crucial to help you avoid investing in a trend or product assortment that is tapering off in popularity.

Establish the Right Cross-market Assortments

Knowing your market is essential but it gets increasingly complex when you want to target other regions. No two markets are the same, so being able to firstly understand how certain trends perform in different markets will allow you to identify what your customers are looking for so you can accurately meet their demands. This is especially helpful if you’re expanding to new markets.

Zara, a popular brand available in multiple regions, is a great example. Focusing on the US and France alone, there are already distinct differences in trending categories and colours, even with a similar number of total products.

Top Categories

The difference in category composition between Zara France vs Zara US
The difference in category composition between Zara France vs Zara US. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

While both had the same top five categories, the percentages of contribution differ greatly. The data shows that tops and outerwear were top categories in both countries, however, Zara US had a higher share of tops at 4,192 versus Zara France’s 4,058. The contribution of outerwear also differed for both countries by 1%.

Aside from tops and outerwear, dresses were the third most stocked category in Zara France, making up 9% of the total assortment. The same category was last in the US, at 8% of the total assortment.

Top Colours

Chart of seasonal colour palette Zara US vs Zara France
Chart of seasonal colour palette Zara US vs Zara France. Source: Omnilytics Dashboard

The colour distribution chart by category chart shows the differences in seasonal colour palettes between the two countries in July of 2020.

As seen in the first row, blue was the main seasonal colour at Zara US, dominating nearly 17% of the total assortment. It was followed by pink at 7.7%, brown at 7.4%, green at 4.6% and lastly, yellow at 3.7%

Over in France, similar colours appear again, however at different contributing percentages. Brown that was previously the third-highest contributing colour in the US, is beaten by green.

The differences also continue in category allocation. The three key categories in brown for Zara US are shoes, outerwear and tops whereas brown in France is represented by shoes, bags and accessories.

With just these two examples, it’s clear that each market has distinct preferences across regions, in spite of being the same brand carrying the same products.

At the same time, we can also see similarities between the two countries which indicate universal trends that are accepted across the board such as blue and pink.

Cross-market analysis such as this can especially helpful when trying to determine local consumer sentiments. By studying the variance between the two assortments, you can understand which trends work for all markets versus local consumers only.

The Keys to a Bestselling Assortment Strategy

In summary, the three steps to developing a bestselling assortment strategy, every time are:

  • Identify and validate top-performing trends – Determine if viral trends are really performing by studying stock movement.
  • Strategise for declining trends – Avoid trends that are losing prominence and if it’s already in your assortment, plan your exit strategy to drive up conversions.
  • Establish the right cross-market assortments – Decipher which trends are universally accepted versus local market preferences.

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