Merchandise financial planning is the process of mapping a retailer’s financial targets (such as topline goals, profitability targets or inventory utilization) into a merchandise receipts and sales plan for the year. This process can be done seasonally or at cadences that are more in line with fiscal reporting, such as quarterly, semi-annually or annually.
Merchandise financial planning is particularly important for retailers in seasonal product categories, where merchandise has limited shelf-life. Without a rigorous merchandise financial plan in place, a retail organization will end the season with unwanted inventory at hand, run out-of-stock on important product classes and leave hitting their financial targets to chance.
In this article, we will go over the steps for putting together a merchandise plan for a retailer that is planning to increase annual sales by 10% and is planning to grow the gross margin from 40% to 42%. Assume that this organization is a vertically integrated retailer that is keeping the product strategy the same, i.e. cannot arbitrarily increase AUR. Let’s go through the workflow that a footwear planner will go through, given these top-down requirements to build a merchandise plan to meet the financial targets.
A planner will go through their merchandise financial plan in the following order:
Below we go into each of the steps in more detail:
Easiest way to update the sales targets for the footwear planner is to first seed last year’s sales into this year and to adjust the aggregate sales by 10%. This will ensure that the monthly spread and the penetration across classes and subclasses are kept consistent. This process will require a lot of copying and pasting in Excel, but a tool like Toolio can really help simplify this process. Once the sales targets are updated, it will have implications on either `Sales AUR` or `Sales Units` as implied in the following formula from our retail math fundamentals post.
Sales $ = Sales AUR * Sales Units
Assuming that the company’s product strategy is staying the same, it is safe to assume that Sales AUR will stay steady, so Sales Units will need to be updated, which will have implications on inventory targets, which we will focus on later on.
Next up is increasing the `gross margin %` by 2% in the footwear department. The levers a planner has in place are:
Lastly the planner will have to calculate the amount of stock, i.e. inventory level, to meet the sales targets and generate a receipt plan. Inventory calculations typically rely on ratios such as `stock to sales` or `turn`. Let’s take `stock to sales` for example. Using historical data, we will have seen that `footwear` business requires a stock to sale ratio of 3:1, which will indicate how much inventory we would need to have to meet our newly adjusted sales targets. Leveraging a monthly inventory flow and beginning of stock we will have in each month, we will then generate a receipt plan and calculate the open to buy (OTB) for each month.
These steps are typically repeated for each class in a retailer’s product hierarchy, i.e. many tens of times per quarter. Some retailers desire to get it even a step lower and do this planning on the sub-class level. Needless to say, there are many steps, data copying and pasting, which is extremely error prone if done on Excel. Toolio offers a simple, integrated and automated solution for building merchandise financial plans. If you are still managing this process on Excel, a merchandise financial planning software could save you time and help make more effective decisions. To learn more, sign up for a demo here.