The delight, not the devil, is in the detail…


One man’s meat is another man’s poison…
or to be more accurate, “a customers delight is the buyer’s devil”

Complex is not a large enough adjective to describe the process of planning, designing and buying an assortment. We no longer live in a world of “selling average products to average customers” but in a competitive market place with a discerning customer who explores the value of every purchase.

Identifying firstly, and then delivering, the added-value for a customer is the Midas touch which ultimately creates assortment which sells or products which stagnate.

Whilst there are always emotional intangibles which may ultimately dictate whether individual products remain good sellers or transcend into best sellers, there is more than a passing logic in the definition and designing of product attributes that give every buyer the opportunity to create a commercial assortment.

“Added-Value Drivers” differ by product department and category and individual range, but rarely change for that range unless a new technology or functionality appears in the market. The more valuable commodity is the “added-value hierarchy” which not only specifies those individual product attributes that mean so much to a customer but also prioritizes their worth, and their role in “reeling” in the customer to love and purchase products.

For example, no amount of exquisite detail on a dress will win over a customer if the overall shape is unflattering, the colour objectionable and the sleeve length indeterminable. Similarly a storage box in wonderful ratten, or practical plastic will not stimulate a purchase if the size is useless – the dimensions of half a book dictating a perpetual and annoying waste of space.

The key to commercial assortment, and pricing for profit, is identifying and prioritising “added-value drivers” and then adding the seasonal, emotional intangibles to create the irresistible product, with value for both retailer and customer.

Easier said than done, but at least addressing product issues in the correct order, with a pragmatic viewpoint based on historical sales experience is not a bad starting point.