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NRF: Why Levi’s and Academy Sports Apply Analytics to Merchandising

For Levi’s Strauss & Co., omnichannel is anywhere a consumer interacts with the brand. So with 50,000 retail locations in more than 110 countries worldwide, senior vice president of global merchandise planning and inventory management Malcolm Goonetileke has his work cut out for him.

“Overall we are dealing with a ton of complexity and it makes my job a nightmare,” he shared, speaking Monday at a talk titled “Reshaping Retail Relevance” at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) 2016 Big Show.

Lori Schafer, an executive advisor at software firm SAS who chaired the discussion, said, “Retail is changing so quickly, and when you look at merchandise and bringing analytics into that today it’s all about bringing that customer knowledge to the process and staying locally relevant even if you’re a global retailer.”

“From Levi’s perspective, we are overly localized. We have very few products that are common across all markets,” Goonetileke continued. That’s why the company embarked on a multi-year end-to-end transformation to establish a globally orchestrated, regionally harmonized business model, which means going from using 40-plus planning applications to just one. “We want to create a common language and we want to get to a place where we can talk about product performance in common language.”

Because: “We have a global product line that enforces our vision and Levi’s should mean the same thing to all our consumers.”

By comparison, Katy, Texas-based Academy Sports is using advanced analytics to tailor assortments in its 209 stores in order to help exceed consumer expectations across 15 states.

“We’re on a huge growth trajectory right now, so [we need to gather that data] to be able to sustain that growth and accelerate that growth,” said Richard Widdowson, Academy’s senior vice president of merchandise planning and replenishment. “When you open a brand new store in a brand new market and you see 300 to 400 people lined up outside waiting for the store to open and then they see how we’ve tailored the assortment to their community, that’s why we do it and get down to this granular level of detail.”

Offering that same experience online, however, is still a ways off.

“We didn’t have a website until 2011,” Widdowson said. “We grew up with e-commerce separate from brick-and-mortar and e-commerce is still a very small portion of who we are… The customer doesn’t really care. They want to shop whichever way they want and they want that product available wherever they want.”