Beginning the Merchandise Planning Journey at a Luxury Department Store

An international luxury department store group approached us with a brief to provide them with a “merchandise plan” for a specific season.

They had been working with a well-known generalist consulting firm who had suggested changes to their commercial approach but did not have the depth of knowledge to translate this into workable process. They came to First Friday as we were recommended as experts in Buying and Merchandising.

Beginning the Merchandise Planning Journey at a Luxury Department Store

The Challenge

The department store was a highly-branded business and over time the brands themselves had increasingly been relied on for the planning, leading to over-optioning, duplication, increased markdown and missed opportunities.

Capability and capacity were both low, and we had 5-weeks to work with the teams to improve their approach sufficiently for them to build a credible season plan, rather than implement a top-down finance-driven plan (their standard practice).

We agreed to focus on Fashion and ensure that the plan included E-commerce and Stores, and was balanced across both Brand and Category. Prior to our involvement a debate had raged around which one should be the focus, but both are key.

The Solution

Lead teams from each area were selected to work with us on their real numbers. We briefed each team each day on the information they needed to bring to the workshops and coached them through how to look at the information with a focus on:

  • How to find missed opportunitiesCropped image of luxury knitwear and leather accessory next to text: Working on their real numbers and using their real ranges in a dynamic environment accelerated learning and produced a much higher quality of plan for the season.
  • How to spot areas going off-trend
  • How to analyse the range balance

We worked through Sizing, Basics vs Fashion differences, Availability, Seasonal stock mixes (including carry over), and Transitional and terminal planning.

Being able to use their real ranges in a dynamic environment really accelerated the learning and produced a much higher quality plan for the season.

The Buying and Merchandising directors attended the sessions with their teams so that they could apply the thinking to the broader business and support the coaching of the remaining teams.

The lead teams then cascaded the approach to their colleagues – which embedded their learning and ensured questions were surfaced with us quickly.


It was an intensive few weeks for everyone involved, but the First Friday team were able to establish credibility quickly as they shared real-life experiences and could empathise with the challenges the teams were facing. Because the new templates and plans were arrived at jointly, the team were bought into the outcomes, which meant that when they presented their new seasonal plan to the CEO they were robust and well received.

And because they had built their plans themselves, they were able to qualify the results versus the plan and so continued the learning and building that into future season planning.

By working with the teams in this way, we formed a good view of the way of working which meant we were able to provide robust recommendations to improve their Buying and Merchandising – from organisational design to processes to behavioural skills.

This initial project was so well-received that we were then invited to help embed the new operating model across the whole of the group.