What is a WSSI and why is it so important?

You may not currently have a WSSI, and, having survived without, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. Or you may be wondering why you’re under pressure from your team to replace that old Excel WSSI which has been around for years…

But if you’re a retailer who needs to manage the risky business of buying stock ahead of season, you’re definitely going to need one.

So, in this post, we’re going to explore just why is the WSSI so important, and why are we at First Friday so passionate about it.

But first things first, what is a WSSI, anyway?

What is a WSSI and why is important - article by First Friday.

What is a WSSI?

WSSI is a commonly used retail acronym that stands for “Weekly Sales, Stock and Intake”.

Pronounced “wizzy“, the WSSI an industry-standard tool which supports the decision-making of Retail Buying, Planning and Trading teams.

A WSSI shows past, present and future sales performance by week, and can be used to:

  • Create a merchandising plan, and
  • To monitor, review and react to sales performance against that plan during the trading period

What is a WSSI not?

It’s important to note that the WSSI is not a report – even if it is viewed on paper. Rather, it is a decision-making tool, supporting the process by which Sales, Stock and Intake are managed to maximise profit and minimise risk.

Open to Buy (OTB) is generated to ensure that the right stock is available at the right time, while terminal stock targets allow for the management of seasonal stock down to an appropriate level, for example.

There is also no “WSSI process“. WSSI is not the process itself and if your stock management process is broken, the existence of a WSSI will not fix it.

Why do I need a WSSI?

The WSSI is critical for the effective management of sales, stock and intake, and the avoidance of high markdown costs when things don’t go to plan.

  • Can you forecast bottom-up, or are you always looking at the top-down view? Can you roll-up bottom-up views to give a top-down view?
  • Are you sure that you’re potentialising individual sales channels, rather than simply looking at the sum of the parts?

If you answered ‘No’ to either of these questions, you need a WSSI.

Still not convinced? Here’s some other things to think about:

  • How much effort are your teams having to put in to give you this information?
  • How much more time is being spent providing information to impacted functions like Finance and the DC to inform their decision-making?
  • Have you unwittingly created a cottage industry of Excel spreadsheets which pull information from myriad systems to give you what you want – whilst leaving your teams little time to do what you are paying them to do?

Let’s put the question another way; how are you operating without a WSSI?

Benefits of using a WSSI

As a team of retail experts, it’s perhaps no surprise that we’re passionate about the WSSI at First Friday. Our clients regularly confirm its importance to them too, and often cite the ease of decision-making due to the speed at which they can assess things such as:

  • How much more stock is needed to meet the anticipated level of sales
  • What events might be needed to boost/maximise sales
  • How much stock needs to be phased back to react to sales at lower than planned levels

… when all the data is in one place.

Never be without a WSSI. It should be the cornerstone of a business. The key / art is knowing how to use it effectively to manage your business. There are big wins to be gained.” – Merchandising Director

Using a WSSI allows you to compare historical data (past performance) and future projections (forecasted sales) alongside each other, as well as the ability to calculate how much additional stock should be bought to meet ideal stock levels.

Additionally, a WSSI:

  • Provides a mechanism for revising your original merchandising plan in the trading period to create a forward forecast which reflects performance
  • Gives confidence that your forward forecast potentialises the trends emerging through current performance – rather than holding you to a plan which may now look outdated
  • Provides an at-a-glance report that you will have enough stock to potentialise demand in future months – without incurring the risk of holding excess stock
  • Enables managing sales, stock and intake by season to avoid excess terminal stock of unsaleable seasonal products – without excessive clearance markdown spend

The benefits of a WSSI aren’t just confined to the Buying, Planning and Trading teams. It also provides:

  • Visibility of forward sales and intake supports cash flow forecasts in Finance
  • Intake and despatch forecasts to aid flow planning through the distribution centre (DC)

How do you use a WSSI?

So now we’ve covered what a WSSI is (and what it isn’t) and the benefits of using it, let’s take a quick look at how to use a WSSI, and exactly how it can help with your stock intake decision-making.

The WSSI helps make business decisions easier and more agile, acting as a dynamic plan that enables teams to re-forecast within the trading period rather than holding to the stock levels they originally planned.

An example WSSI.

Rolling-up Department or Channel WSSIs gives a Company view, whilst working bottom-up from levels below Department helps to potentialise growth areas and minimise risk in those which are underperforming.

Automated data feeds from sales, stock and commitment systems release users from mundane, data inputting and free-up thinking time to make decisions with the data.

What should I look for in a WSSI?

Whether you’re looking to introduce a WSSI for the first time, or considering upgrading your current solution, the possibilities of WSSI are endless.

Before you start using a (new) WSSI, there are many things that you’ll need to consider:

  • Assess what is desirable in your business
  • Assess what is possible in your business with the data that you have
  • Review your processes and identify any opportunities for improvement
  • Clarify your requirements for a system
  • Undertake selection of the best fit software
  • Plan how best to manage the change within the business
  • Plan how you will train your teams to work with the new tools and/or process

To help you get started, read our guide to choosing and implementing a WSSI.

Getting started with a (new) WSSI

Using a WSSI for the first time – be that as a new WSSI software/tool or a new concept entirely – can be a daunting prospect. And you may think that this type of system transformation project is likely to be a time-consuming endeavour.

But by following a simple 4-step process, retailers can quickly adapt and adopt to new processes, and start benefitting from better sales and stock inventory control.

  1. Define your processes, business requirements and what you need from the system
  2. Choose your software
  3. Build the system
  4. Change management and training

We’ve already helped a lot of retailers move to new WSSIs: process definition, systems requirement, software selection, change management and training. If you’re thinking of moving to a new system, or need advice on how to get more from your current tool, we’re here to help.

Get in touch to speak with one of our independent experts, or browse the blog for tips and insights.

Do you need to upskill or train your team in merchandising?

We have many ready-to-go courses in our Retail Academy for buyers, merchandisers & planners which covers everything from the ground up.  Choose the modules you need, or go all-in with a mix of online and classroom-based options to suit varying needs.

The courses that cover the use of a WSSI are:

Alternatively, find out more about developing training that is bespoke to your business.

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Kathryn Fletcher

About the author: Kathryn Fletcher

An experienced retail professional, Kathryn provides additional specialist consultancy on client projects as part of First Friday's extended Retail Consulting Team.

Want to learn more?

Take a look at our available courses or get in touch if you want further information

  • Merchandise Planning

    Suitable for intermediate level merchandising or planning roles involved in pre-season planning, this course covers planning sales, stock, markdown and margin, sales phasing, managing intake and open to buy, and use of the WSSI. Find out more »

  • In-season Management: Forecasting, Trading and WSSI

    Covers use of the WSSI as a trading, evaluation & forecasting tool, taking action and managing end of season product & terminal stock. Find out more »

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