Many people ask me what I see as the biggest problem area in retailing today and I normally have little hesitation in answering – RANGING. I believe that “if the dogs don’t like the dog food they won’t eat it!” And that really is what ranging is about – providing a range with sufficient width and depth that suits the target market.
The biggest problem in ranging? Lack of adequate range planning, which more often than not leads to width and depth problems, amongst the most notable being:
- Too much width in terms of classifications – literally trying to be “all things to all people”. This invariably destroys depth.
- Too much width in terms of the price parameters – trying to cover all income factors. Again, this destroys depth and often points up the fact that little thought has been given to market segmentation.
- Lack of depth in terms of quantity of best sellers resulting in out of stocks of basic core lines and those lines the retailer can ill afford to run out of.
- Lack of depth in terms of the choice offered within classifications – “if you don’t like that particular item – bad luck!”
- In some cases too much depth (depending whether we determine brands are a width or depth factor which often gets back to how we classify) by stocking too many brands without providing a point of difference in terms of features, price points, quality or whatever. In other words – unnecessary duplication of range.
- Failing to range with co-ordination in mind. Being able to merchandise co-ordinates is the obvious way to build the average number of items sold per person, and to me there is little excuse for unco-ordinated broken ranges. You see it happening a lot in apparel and furniture. So buying with co-ordination in mind is critical to effective range planning.
- Advertised lines that bear no relationship to the normal range and have no sell up when a low margin is necessary to draw store traffic.
- Crucifying “sell up” lines by slashing prices unnecessarily, indicating lack of thought in selecting promotional lines.
- Before I get off ranging, I always stress to retailers to get the depth factors right first before expanding the width. Obviously the objective is a balanced range with both width and depth but, invariably, I see retailers that are experiencing ranging problems addressing width factors first and then trying to achieve depth – often failing in the process.
One point, however, is that depth, of course, means different things to different styles of retailers. The little upmarket exclusive boutique would not want depth in terms of quantity so that exclusivity is preserved – and this would form part of their business philosophy and image. The major discounter, however, must have depth in terms of quantity otherwise they destroy their credibility.