6 P's of Merchandise Planning

The 6 P's.png

Take a poll on what Merchandise Planning is and does, and you’ll have your work cut out for you interpreting the responses.  I’ve seen and heard many descriptions, most falling short of the true power of Planning.

My mantra “Planning as it should be” is about unlocking that potential.

These 6 P’s explore the less obvious nuances of Merchandise Planning.


We all know Merchandise Planners are perfectionists, aren’t they? 

This “stickler for detail” stereotype underplays the advanced analytical skillset of Merchandise Planners to

  • inspect, harness and interpret diverse and complex data,

  • navigate the dichotomy of detail versus aggregation,

  • operate in a process driven and methodical manner,

all the while maintaining merchant thinking, creativity, and openness.

That’s what it takes to get the job done well - objectivity couched in commercial acumen; achieved through an aptitude for precision, not perfection.


The concept of perspective is multi-faceted.

Answers for strategic decisions are often found at a macro level.

So while detail and accuracy are critical;  so are themes and trends.


This vantage point also enables comparisons, which is key, because Merchandise Planning doesn’t deal in absolutes.  Informing or validating a position based on relativity and relationships is a fundamental skill for Planners.  

While a number may not tell us much on its own, comparing it against other relevant figures gives it meaning. 

Simple examples are growth and contribution measures; a more complex scenario is assessing sales in relation to profitability, in-stock positions and the impact of competing styles.


Perspective also refers to Planning’s place in the business

  • inputs and outputs to the Planning process

  • awareness of the critical path

  • knowledge of the business strategy

These contextual elements elevate the thinking to effectively influence, and avoid getting lost in the detail.


It would be irresponsible not to include profit (margin) in this list, given the objective of Merchandise Planning is to maximise sales and margin through optimising stock. 

Making money is the end game;  it’s what keeps a business in business.

It’s not uncommon to see too narrow a focus on Sales, but the complete Planning package needs to be profit focused.


Planning itself features as an important “P” 

  • being organised and thinking ahead

  • extrapolating trends

  • anticipating outcomes

  • taking pre-emptive actions

Maximum benefit requires a deep understanding how things impact each other, and which levers to pull to drive the desired outcomes.

Working on scenarios 6-9 months ahead of everyone else’s timeframe can be a lonely place, but the Merchandise Planning team is the business’s first line of defence on this future frontier.


It’s not always straightforward to get to the data that’s needed,

it’s not always easy to communicate the issue,

it’s not always the popular view that the analysis supports.


In many environments Merchandise Planning is not well established in systems and process, or not well understood in terms of the role it should play.

A level of persistence is needed to

  • get the information required, and

  • get the message across


Being logical, creative, and solution oriented are winning skills.

It’s not about being right, it’s about getting the right results.

Which leads us to the final point…


People Skills

Planning done in a microcosm does not influence a business.

To have an impact Merchandise Planners need to be effective communicators.


Senior and skilled Planners will

  • adapt their style to meet their audience, speaking their language

  • engage and partner with their peers

  • tell the story in the numbers to make key Planning insights accessible

  • enable informed decision making through relevant and concise inputs


Whether you are a Merchandise Planner, are managing a Planner, or recruiting for a Planning position, how do your own behaviours, expectations and criteria compare to the above?

Are you missing some P’s and missing out on the full impact of Merchandise Planning?

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