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Liza Amlani (RTS #37)

Liza Amlani headshot
Episode #: 126
Liza Amlani (RTS #37)

Guest: Liza Amlani
Topics: Fashion retail and merchandising


Chris Ressa 0:02
This is retail retold the story of how that store ended up in your neighborhood. I’m your host, Chris ReSSA. And I invite you to join my conversation with some of the retail industry’s biggest influencers. This podcast is brought to you by DLC management

Welcome to retail retold everyone. Today I’m joined by Lisa and Lani. Lisa is the principal and founder of the retail strategy group out of Toronto. She has been in the retail industry for over 20 years, she comes to the retail industry with background in buying and merchandising. She’s worked at places like Ralph Lauren global and club Monaco. I’m excited for her to be here. Welcome to the show, Lisa.

Lisa Amlani 0:51
Thanks for having me, Chris. Excited. Talk Shop.

Ressa 0:55
So Lisa, tell us a little bit more about who you are. And the retail strategy group.

Amlani 1:00
Yeah, absolutely. Um, I as you said, I have two decades working in this amazing industry of retail. Started on the shop floor. I have my degree in fashion marketing. So I’m not I’m a little bit opposite of Ron Thurston, he was accidental. And retail, I’m the exact opposite from that respect, where I purposely love Fashion and Retail. And that’s where I’ve spent most of my career working across the globe, Ralph Lauren. So Monaco, as you said, and I’ve the last few years I’ve spent in consulting, I was with Accenture for a bit and I worked with some great brands, Walmart, and Nike and did some really amazing stuff. The one thing that I did find working in that consulting world was that there weren’t a lot of retail insiders that have actually created products from start to finish understood the end to end retail process. So that’s something that I really wanted to do with my firm. And what we do is we help retailers dramatically improved profitability, increase efficiencies across how they work, especially around speed to market, getting closer to the customer. And merchandising optimization, especially now that we have such a huge digital presence. So understanding what the assortment actually means across channel. And then I also work with shopping malls. I work with retail, tech companies supply chain and logistics folks, just giving them better understanding of the retail landscape from merchant perspective.

Ressa 2:40
Excellent. I can’t wait to dive into it. First. I want to know a little bit more about Lisa. Okay. Ready? I got three questions for you. Are you ready?

Amlani 2:51
Ready? Hi, Ellie.

Ressa 2:52
Question one. When is the last time you did something for the first time?

Amlani 2:57
Wow. I mean, that’s a very relevant question, because I started my own practice. But I would say that the first time I ever did something was around content creation, writing my newsletter, I think that was it extremely uncomfortable. Because I’m not a writer. I’m a retailer. But I have a lot to say. So it’s, it’s been great writing under the merchant life. But it still takes me a while. I’m not an expert by any means in writing, but I have a lot of content. So that is the thing that I guess I’ve never done before.

Ressa 3:31
Excellent. Question two, what is one thing most people agree with? But you do not?

Amlani 3:37
Oh, that’s a great question. Um, I have a lot of retail friends. And I have a lot of buyer friends. And one thing they do not agree with me on is when I say you have to stop buying from your gut, gut feelings. I don’t believe in that. And that’s something we have a lot of a lot of heated discussions around that, where, you know, my buyer friends cannot wait to get back to travel and going to trade shows and which I’m all for, but I think using data is so important. And that is where I think I get into a lot of discussions.

Ressa 4:16
I can imagine, I guess what do you think of the Mickey Drexler days of these excellent merchants who were amazing at spotting trends and knowing what the next fashion trend was going to be? What do you say to that person who was really good at that?

Amlani 4:31
Well, I think you still you still need those qualities, you still need that passion for delighting the customer for finding great product, and newness. But that means you have to know your customer really, really, really well. Customers are evolving. We both know that we work in the space. But the one thing that can help us come to those decisions is data and insights driven from data. So that’s where I would say you need You need books. I’m not saying, don’t use your intuition, but I’m saying you cannot say that you can only, like buying from your gut is not a thing. It shouldn’t be a thing.

Ressa 5:10
How much in the merchant world? Is it art versus science? What percentage is our what percentage of science?

Amlani 5:17
Well, I talked about this quite a lot. I would say. If I think of a percentage, it’s almost 5050, I would say, which, you know, a lot of people will will not like that. But it is because I think that you can only use data and you can only use science. And you have to have some level of creativity to be a retailer. Because if you’re not, you’re you’re a robot. You’re transactional, your Amazon. So I think it’s, I would say 5050. Okay,

Ressa 5:51
last question. Okay, one skill you don’t possess, but wish you did.

Amlani 5:56
I’d love this question. I have this extreme passion for music. I wish I was a DJ, I have dreamt of being a DJ my entire life. I have a lot of DJ friends. They always say, you know, we’ll teach you like, don’t think I could do this. But it’s a passion for sure. I would love love to learn.

Ressa 6:19
I think DJ, I’m Lani. Sounds pretty cool. Oh, thank you for playing that game with me. And answering those three questions. We call that clear the air. And I think it gives the listeners a little bit more about who you are. So thank you. Alright, let’s jump into a little bit of retail. When you said what the retail strategy group? Does. You mentioned a lot of big things. Can you give me an example of a project that you’re working on, or you worked on recently, to give a little bit more specificity to the listener who might not have been able to put their finger on exactly what you’re all doing?

Amlani 6:53
Yeah, of course, I work with a lot of digitally native brands, especially in that soft line space. So whether it’s fashion, apparel, accessories, footwear, and and what I do is I help them to understand what the fundamentals of retail buying is, as they’re looking to scale, especially as they are looking to go online to offline or scaling to sell to a department store, what do they need, even things like line sheets, like simplifying the way that they present to a retail store buyer or department store buyer? So that’s, that’s one area where I will help digitally native brands, but it’s also around strategy of scaling. So using what you’ve learned from your customer online, and how that will help to inform assortment decisions offline. So it’s almost like Omni strategy. But around the assortment, specifically,

Ressa 7:59
what do you typically find is the biggest mistake digitally native brands make as it relates to buying in their product assortment.

Amlani 8:08
I think the biggest challenge with any retailer, all retailers that I’ve actually worked with my career is that they put the same effort into every single product. Not all products requires the same effort, especially around development. And not all product has the same purpose. So not only is it about depth and quantity, but it’s also about effort. So if you have a black T shirt, for example that you have across seasons, it’s a basic item. That’s something that should always be in stock, you shouldn’t go recreating the wheel and designing your whole tech pack. For example, for that basic t shirt, what you need to put your effort into is innovation is newness is what is going to delight the customer. And I would say it’s really around that and I’ve seen that across all brands.

Ressa 9:03
That’s really interesting answer and great insights that leads me to the next what are the digitally native brands do from an assortment buying that might be better than the traditional merchants and brick and mortar retailers?

Amlani 9:18
I think they’re able to action a lot quicker in terms of if something is selling or not selling. And when you go into a physical store the the products that may have be your bottom sellers may they may be the ones that are actually attracting the customers into the store. When you’re in a physical store, you might cut those bottom sellers because you’re like well they’re not you know they’re not doing well. But online, you’re able to actually action things a lot more quick. And the endless aisle in that concept around Endless Aisle I think can be used in a positive way. A there’s a lot of times where I’ve seen the endless I’ll be taken advantage of and the assortments are way too big. But I think there is a happy medium there, especially around sustainability and developing less and avoiding over production. So I think there’s a lot of concepts in there. But I think that a digitally native brand has a lot going for them in terms of what they’re getting from the data per product on their site.

Ressa 10:32
And what are the brick and mortar legacy brands or even that legacy just even if they’re newer, but primarily brick and mortar? What do they do better than that digitally native as it relates to Merchandising, and by

Amlani 10:43
customer service, really understanding the customer being in front of them, I think there is so much value for brand ambassadors in the store and how they can relate to a customer one on one face to face. Yes, of course, we have live shopping, we have the ability to chat online and use AI and all those wonderful, wonderful tool. But there is nothing like the experience of actually talking to somebody in front of you. Showing them product, helping them style, if you’re in fashion. And building that rapport with with your customer, is something that the physical store does so so well. Or they have the ability to do so well.

Ressa 11:30
Do you find that the traditional retailers are more experienced at buying and merchandising than the digitally native or? No,

Amlani 11:38
I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t say that, um, I’d say that there’s a lot of veterans out there that are still doing the same job. And that, to me, means that they’re not evolving, and they’re not using new tools or new systems to make better decisions around their customer, or they don’t know their customer. That’s a big challenge as the customer continues to evolve, which is what we saw in the pandemic. And a lot of legacy retailers where there are folks that have been in the same roles forever, especially in buying and merchandising, it’s very difficult to change behaviors. And retailers, we don’t like change really and truly. So I think that’s where I see a disconnect with the newer buyers versus the old timers. But I’m not saying the old timers can’t change. But maybe the willingness is not as as evidence as it would be in a digitally native brand or a new buyer.

Ressa 12:38
Appreciate the thoughts. Very interesting take a unique take, I’m interested in being on the buying side and how important you think the omni channel experience is for retailers. Super important.

Amlani 12:54
When you look at the customer, which everything should start with looking at the customer, you have to look at the customer in the middle. When you’re thinking about Omni, you’re thinking about the entire holistic organic experience that a customer experiences. And that means the customer is in the middle and everything else is a subsection of what the customer wants or needs or doesn’t even know they want yet. Omni channel is really about that seamless experience. And that’s what the customer should be. That’s what they should have on their shopping buying journey is a seamless experience, whether they’re engaging with, let’s say the Nike app to to run, or they’re going into a local store. And all the products that they have already worn or looked at online, are available in the store. So I think that in terms of AMI, it’s really about that seamless experience and the customer doesn’t know channel, they don’t differentiate a brand because of their channel. They want the best experience from that brand as a whole. Whether it is using the app to exercise or going into the store or going you know, being part of a running club, or listening to the Spotify playlist. For example.

Ressa 14:10
At what point do you start pushing a digitally native brand to open stores?

Amlani 14:18
That’s an interesting question. I feel from my experience, most digitally native brands are looking to scale. And the way to scale is to open a store, whether it’s a pop up or partnering with a department store. It’s important for that brand if they want to scale to really understand where their customer is where they want to shop, what they want what they want from the assortment in a physical store versus their online stores. It could be the same but yeah, I think it’s very important for for online to shift offline if they’re looking to scale.

Ressa 14:59
Yeah. If they’re looking to scale, so we typically see that at about $10 million in revenue usually means they’re in multiple markets. And customer acquisition costs are starting to get really expensive. That’s a number where offline starts to make sense. Or we see typically in like Series C funding at that round, people are starting to open up stores. Not everybody wants to be Warby are on target. But you know, there’s nothing wrong with having a million dollar business and wanting to stay there. That’s, that is what it is. But if you’re looking to scale, I think Omni is quite,

Amlani 15:33
I think a sauce is a great example of that, you know, coming in, you know, living and working in the UK, a sauce, you know, we all shopped at Athos, you know, not even like half a day delivery, it was amazing. But knowing that they didn’t open any stores until they understood what their physical strategy was. And the whole reason why they acquired Topshop was because of that relationship with Nordstrom. And that’s how they’re going to infiltrate that physical store, physical customer, which is super interesting. And, you know, let’s see what happens because Topshop was dying. But it’ll be interesting to see how a sauce works with Nordstrom to possibly develop the Great, the greatest product mix that the Topshop customer has ever seen. That will be interesting.

Ressa 16:24
I’m curious to see who this is better for whether it’s a sauce for Nordstrom, because I think it was an interesting move by Nordstrom. Because you know now Nordstrom, you know, owns more brands call it I don’t know if you call it the DTC model. But you know, they’re owning brands now, which I think is interesting.

Amlani 16:43
Yeah. And it depends, like if they’re owning the whole brand, and will it be part of their private label? assortment or product mix? Or is it that you know, like the a sauce relationship where they have a stake in Topshop. And what’s going to be interesting is how they’re going to fill in the gaps that they have right now, with that Topshop assortment to generate more sales from that Gen Z and younger customer.

Ressa 17:10
Sure. What else is top of mind today? Lisa, what else is top of mind for you?

Amlani 17:14
Oh my God, so many things, you know, besides the whole, you know, getting to the moon as fast as possible. You know, that story? Like I just it’s very hard to get my head wrapped around Bezos right now. But Amazon, I think is still such a powerhouse. And I really believe in shopping local, and just pushing that sustainability metric. And really, for brands to adhere to these claims that they’re making. That’s something that’s top of mind for me.

Ressa 17:51
Are you finding that brands are not adhering to the sustainability claims that they’re making?

Amlani 17:56
Yes, yes, yes. It doesn’t help that there are so many sustainability metrics out there. I think there’s over 456 credibility type claims that fashion companies and retail companies can make. So I think that what the UN doing is, is doing is really great with the UN, triple FC. But the challenge is that only parts of retailers and processes are being put in the forefront on what they’re doing around sustainability, whether it is you know, material production or how they are becoming, you know, more circular, which is great. I love that, you know, circularity and resale is is top of mind for a lot of brands. But I think we still, as consumers, especially need to understand what is the impact of each brand to the climate? And what does, what does it really mean? How does it translate to what it could mean for the future for for us as humankind,

Ressa 19:05
all this same day, next day delivery, lot of fossil fuels being used to make that happen? What’s your take on that?

Amlani 19:12
I think it’s problematic. I think that a lot of brands are are trying to do better in terms of not doing same day or shipping from store but allocating goods to store that they know that customers are going to buy in that local region to cut that carbon footprint. And packaging, I think is something that brands need to look at a little bit harder. And you know, even if the package is small, there’s a lot of plastic waste in there. We know that from beauty. But I think that there’s a lot of work to be done here. And I think it really comes from brands being more transparent in what they’re doing and what it’s costing. Not only the environment, but what it’s costing them. So what does it really cost them to, to implement same day or next day delivery? Does it cost more than what? What the cost of the product is? Then we know that okay, something’s wrong here.

Ressa 20:13
If they can’t charge that to the consumer, then yes. But I guess if you want to next day, a pack of Wrigley’s gum, that’s 25 cents or same day, I don’t think you’re ever going to bring that cost down to the pack of wrinkly gum, you know, Timberland, they had done something, I don’t know where they’re at on it. But they had announced a few months ago, that took delivery later, they would plant a tree in your name, which obviously resonates with customer. I think when you look at the Walmart, the target the Amazon customer, one of the things that they’re craving, and as a priority today is value. They’re craving convenience, they’re craving the experience of all of them, which makes sustainability a real challenge.

Amlani 20:55
And I think that’s why, you know, a lot of retailers are encouraging buy online, pick up in store or return in store. That’s something that not only encourages a shift in that last mile process methodology. But if retailers could be a little bit more forthcoming on, what is the impact of you returning in store versus us sending you a package label, and you returning it by the same box, as an example, I think that if retailers and brands are a lot more transparent, and there’s visibility around what things could cost the environment, not necessarily monetary cost. I think that could be interesting, like what you see in like an Albert’s label, for example, I think that the more transparent retailers and brands are, the more customers are informed and they can make better decisions.

Ressa 21:53
At a minimum right now, it’s hard to see a path where delivering to the home is less expensive than buy online pick up in store, right now, it’s more profitable to do buy online pick up in store, both for the retailer and for the consumer. So you could have a double win there from a sustainability and a value perspective to both the business and the consumer. So moving back a little bit to the digitally native brands, we’ve seen very few examples of these digitally native brands that are actually profitable today, everyone’s trying to come up with things to get profitable and get to scale, because that’s when profitability comes. But there are very few brands who are ever going to make it to the Amazon or Wayfair. And so as customer acquisitions cost rise, as infrastructure cost is not getting cheaper, it’s getting more expensive. What do you think the answer to these digitally native brands is one of the answers could be offline and opening stores, which is a benefit. But a lot of these digitally, native brands are not profitable. And they’re they’re gobbling up market share, but unprofitable market share.

Amlani 23:02
And that’s why I always bring up the product assortment. I think that there’s a lot of cost tied up in a even product creation and preventing stockouts for example, online. I think that’s that’s it. That’s a whole other conversation. But I do think that there’s a lot of value in having that merchandising strategy conversation with retailers, especially the digitally native ones, because when they have an endless aisle, which I brought up earlier, a lot of brands are just creating this huge assortment, and there’s no need for it. They don’t need to have every single style of T shirt, pants, footwear, they need to concentrate on okay, what is actually working, let’s shift to a seasonless model so that we can produce less we have more of a focus of let’s provide the customer what they actually want, instead of giving them this, you know, 4000 SKU range, then that will help to eliminate some of those costs. Because it’s not only about customer acquisition and marketing dollars, but it’s also about let’s talk about the actual product. Let’s talk about how How long are you taking to not only create the product, but are you using digital tools? When you’re going back and forth with your factories? Are you creating the product with tech packs, and you’re creating multiple tech packs for one garment? That’s a waste

Ressa 24:33
you educate the consumer or the listener? I’m sorry, um, what a tech pack is.

Amlani 24:37
Yeah, sure. A tech pack is basically the instructions of a garment that you would give the factory. So what I’ve seen in my entire career and still see to this day, is that garments are for exam garments and footwear really. They’re adjusted slightly and then the tech pack is redone. Once that tech pack is redone, it’s sent back and forth and samples are sent back and forth with mostly overseas. And that is not only a time waster, but it’s also just such a waste of energy. It’s not efficient. So that’s something that also adds to the cost of the product. If we could look at the product differently, making sure that there’s a purpose for each product, then you don’t need to have 4000 skews, you should never have 1000 skews. Nobody is a sauce except a sauce, we have 4000 views. But I think that there’s there’s a lot of value to look at the entire end to end process and not just the cost of customer acquisition with certain KPIs that are digitally native,

Ressa 25:44
very insightful. Thank you for teaching us about tech packs. What else didn’t we talk about that you think we should be talking about? Today,

Amlani 25:53
I love to talk about the purpose of the shopping mall. That’s something that has been top of mind, especially the last few weeks. And also in my newsletter, I talked about it quite a bit, that there is a purpose to the mall, because it does bring communities together. But I do think that you don’t need as many. Because physical retail is not dead by any means. But the purpose of the mall definitely is changing and needs to evolve.

Ressa 26:21
I start from the premise of majority of consumers can’t afford to pay for shipping on every product. And majority of retailers can’t afford free shipping. The most efficient and affordable way to deliver goods to the American consumer is a physical store, I start with that premise, which is at scale, the most efficient and affordable way to deliver goods to the American consumer is via a store. Now that’s skewed a little bit because there are many brands that are unprofitably selling goods. And you have unique things that happen like with Walmart and Amazon who, if you were going to return it, they told you don’t return it, just keep it and we’ll send you another one that was pretty wild. Many brands can do that. Right? Not because very few brands that could afford to do that and have the gumption to do that. That is pretty game changing, right. But still, to this day, the most affordable way to deliver goods to the American consumer is a physical store. So I think one of the things that we discount all too often, I think over the course of time, maybe not over the next six months. But over the course of time, there is a purpose and value. There’s an experiential piece, there is a bringing communities together piece, there is a attraction piece I want to touch it, there is this discovery piece where it’s a place of discovery, there’s an instant gratification piece still to this day. One of the purposes of a store is if I’m driving down the road, and I want something Bing, bang, boom, I can just pop in and grab. But I think one of the things we miss and we don’t talk about enough given the evolution of stores is is the place that both people, the consumer and the businesses can get the best value is through a physical store. At some point, the rubber will meet the road on that. And one of the interesting things we’re seeing today, a lot of the VC brands were talking about they’re done trying to acquire new customers, let’s focus on keeping the existing ones because brand loyalty is a challenge today. See, one of the things that’s interesting is I am on an island on this and you said it earlier we said you said we have too many physical stores. I think we have too many online stores and not enough great physical stores. I don’t think we’re over stored in physical, I think we’re over stored digitally. I think at the beginning of the pandemic, we had 1.8 million online stores in America. And I think we had the numbers been it was less in physical stores by a huge number. Well, I will tell you through the pandemic that probably the number of physical stores went down and the number of online stores went up and think about this. So if online has like triple quadruple the amount of physical stores yet today, just about 80% of all retail sales are done in a physical store, about 20% are done digitally. So you have 80% of the sales going to four times less the amount of source. So to me that would say you know we keep talking about we’re overstorey in America, we have too many digital stores, you can just look at I’m not sure if you know when someone goes to a website, what is the conversion rate average conversion rate for a digitally native brand? Do you know I’m not sure I know. I know it’s super low. It’s quite low, quite low. Whereas in a store conversion rates are pretty strong. They’re like significantly more than online and then to go and the cost to get that consumer to your website is significant. I don’t start with the premise that we have too many stores. We might have some boring stores that need to change. We may have some On oversized stores, we may have some stores that need to evolve. But I think it’s hard to argue that we don’t have too many digital stores. I think we’re to a point where we should start having the discussion. Are we oversaturated? With online stores? I mean, how many stores can be on Shopify? How many until it’s too many?

Amlani 30:22
I mean, I think I think you bring up some interesting points, there’s a few pieces missing, where, for a physical retailer, a lot of times the customer will shop pre shop online before they come into the store. So it’s really about the purpose of not only the digital store, that you’re saying that there are too many, but also the physical stores, which I think there are too many, too many that do not serve a purpose, or that are just a waste of space, and that they are so ancient, they should be on the Flintstones, like we need to change the way that we look at all stores, no matter the channel.

Ressa 31:00
Yeah, well, for starters, I think omni channel is real. And I think it’s important to be omni channel, I think what you said is interesting, the part that I would challenge you on is just when you think about the economics, physical stores, even the ones that you say, let’s talk about from a business perspective, not a consumer perspective, I think it’s the consumer behaviors changing. But even stores, there were Sears and Kmart stores that you would walk into and be like, these are terrible. But you know what, some of those were profitable. So are they a bad retailer? Are they worse than the digitally native brand that everybody loves, but can’t make any money? At the end of the day, there’s a balance between serving the consumer and making money at some point to you have to serve the consumer in a profitable manner. I think it’s an unfair assessment of retail, when we don’t talk about this. And we only talk about serving the consumer needs changing consumer behavior. These are all real. But if we’re not going to do it profitably, it’s unsustainable. Whereas there are many K Mart’s that you would walk into five years ago and go This is terrible. Yeah, they make more money than all these some of these sexy digitally native brands, though, who’s a better retailer?

Amlani 32:13
I don’t think you need to have that hierarchy of retailers. Like who’s the best retailer? and who isn’t? I agree. You know, I think that, yeah, they’re probably too many digitally. digital stores are probably too many brands out there. We I mean, just speaking from a merchant perspective, there’s way too much product in the world. There’s way too much product being developed. And the landfills are full. You know, we could talk about that for a long time. But I that’s where I go back to, there must be a purpose for every every store, whether digital or not

Ressa 32:54
headline news, my industry, everybody’s industry was like calling on like Kmart, it’s not good, then to go away. Get some of the Kmart stores on a standalone basis. The company did all this, were profitable. And so is that enough of a purpose?

Amlani 33:10
Yeah. Because I’m sure that wherever that Kmart store is located, the one that you’re talking about, it serves that community. Yeah. And if it wasn’t there, what would that community do? Where would they go, they would have no options. And we’re seeing that across. Even the shopping malls that are losing that middle, Taylor, so many of them closed down. No matter where you look, Canada, the US or across Europe, a lot of stores closed down. And the fact is, there’s no one to have, there are no stores or brands to replace those stores. And I challenge you in saying that, you know, some digitally native brands do not need to exist, but maybe those are the ones that need to fill in those those middle tier gaps.

Ressa 33:59
I don’t think that digitally native brands don’t need to exist, I think they need to exist. I’ve been a consumer of some I’m saying that the pendulum has shifted too much. We keep saying we’re over stored in America, I still don’t see a great argument as to why people say that majority of retail sales are at stores physical, and you hear all the stats about per capita per square foot compared to other countries. I don’t know why that is the benchmark. Yeah. What is clear, though, is there’s not a discussion that we have all these digitally native brands, many of which haven’t proven to be profitable, and we keep adding these. Yeah. And to me, that’s the discussion that I think America is tired of the discussion that we’re over stored, and they’re showing with their wallets that that’s not true. And they’re not showing with their wallets that we have too few digitally native store brand stores, but yet we still keep opening them. So that’s all I’m saying is discussion. I think we need both. I’m a big fan of omni channel. I think we need both. I’m just saying that this Question is very one sided today. And I think it’s to be a little more even keeled. The last thing I would say is that you mentioned that we have too much product. Yeah. Take away the sustainability piece too much product in your world led to the markdown frenzy that we’ve had in the world, right, you have to mark it down because we have too much product. Right. And that is the you know, clearly the death of the retailer right. One of the analysts endosymbiont. Segal, he says, we don’t have a oversaturation of stores in America, we have an oversaturation of discounts. And that has been a huge challenge for retailers in the product. Here’s my question for you coming from the Bible, is it too much product? Or is it too much of the same product?

Amlani 35:42
So from a merchant perspective, what I can tell you is that we produce too much, we produce too much because we are stuck with the old ways of working with traditional buying seasons. So you buy at a minimum for four seasons of the year, usually you have six drops. And of course fast fashion is a lot more as this stores were reopening. Especially here in Canada, they were opening in markdowns even so as soon as the stores opened, everything was on sale, because the retailer did not change the way they manage their assortment and their line plan. markdowns are generally built into the line plan and the way that buyers buy. So they expect to have markdowns at certain points in the year. And that is what effectively needs to change dramatically. We need to shift the way that we buy products, the way that we assort product ranges and product mixes and just scrap those seasons. Because we don’t need to have them. Yes, we need newness on, you know, throughout the year. I’m not discounting that. But I don’t think that an entire range needs to be brand new all the time.

Ressa 36:57
I think a brand that does this incredibly, is Nike, right? You need sneakers all year round. Number one. So your point is they’re seasonless. And there’s a scarcity of product, therefore they can grow price, people race to it. And scarcity creates margin, right. And in fact, if you hold those new we can see by stock X and goat that these products actually appreciate in value. They’re almost an investment sneakers. And I think they’re an incredible case study to what you’re talking about of seasonless product, and they don’t over produce, and therefore they hold the price and grow price. And the consumer still stands in lines at footlocker and Nike stores, shows up on their website and can’t wait to buy it. I think they’re like an incredible example of what you’re talking about.

Amlani 37:49
I agree. I mean, look at Kanye. That’s a great example. He he has a beef with Nike and he’s still overnight, he still wears Nike. I’m considering he’s ended the digits umbrella. But I think that sneakers are a great category that does a really good job with exclusivity of product and not as much overbuying but there’s a lot of challenges around footwear, where it just takes like, you know, almost two years to produce a shoe

Ressa 38:22
to market. That’s a lot I did.

Amlani 38:25
Yeah, in terms of fast fashion shoes. That’s a little bit different. There’s a lot of waste in that area in product development. And then with fashion with apparel, we I you know, we’re all pretty much aware of you know, what’s happening in the world. You know, look at, you know, boohoo and, of course, Zara and h&m There’s a lot of challenges as in fast fashion, because they have so many drops. So they’re constantly part of that markdown cycle. And they buy into that marketing cycle because it drives into different customer, a full price customers different from your markdown customer. So it’s almost like oh, we have this huge customer base because we really have two different types of customer and we’re able to serve both, but can they maintain margins will always be on markdown? Not really.

Ressa 39:16
I think that’s where Nike just crushes it. So they’re really good and I had no idea thank you for enlightening me it takes two years to go from concept to in the store for a shoe

Amlani 39:27
or some shoes. Yes, because the way that you develop a shoe it’s not it’s not like you would a garment where you have to create the the tool. The actual thing to make the Rubber Soul it’s it’s not really the tech pack that I’m talking about. It’s more like the actual the molds that you need in the factory to actually produce it. It takes a lot more than it would to cut and sew a garment.

Ressa 39:54
Interesting had no idea so the sneakers the hot sneakers that Nikes thinking about reading today, those will be on the shelves in 2024.

Amlani 40:04
In some cases, in some cases, not. If they’re using digital product creation to help create that product, then it obviously speeds up that time to market. Which is, which is what we want to do. We want to get faster to market pieces, even garments take a long time, you know, in some cases 12 to 16 months.

Ressa 40:23
Well, listen, this was great. We’re running short on time. I’ve got three more questions for you. Are you ready? Okay. Question one. What extinct retailer Do you wish would come back from the dead?

Amlani 40:33
That’s a good question. And a difficult one for me to answer, actually, because I kind of want to say Topshop. The old school OG Topshop. Grew up in Britain. So I would say Topshop from the 90s.

Ressa 40:48
Alright. Question two. What is the last product over? $20 You bought in a store?

Amlani 40:54
That’s not grocery,

Ressa 40:55
whatever you want? Well,

Amlani 40:56
then I have to think grocery.

Ressa 40:58
Would you buy over $20 rack of lamb? Alright, I like Rachael lamp. Okay. Last question. If Lisa and Chris were shopping at Target, and I lost you what I would I find you in

Amlani 41:10
stationary? stationary? Yes. makes the best stationery. Yeah.

Ressa 41:17
Hmm. I had no idea stationery, you’ll see. This is why these questions are great. You want anyone’s ever said stationery. On that question. I’m blown away.

Amlani 41:26
My second answer would be beauty, obviously. But definitely station.

Ressa 41:31
Well, listen, this was great. I really appreciate it. Let’s stay connected. If people want to find you, how can they find you?

Amlani 41:39
They can find me on Twitter at the merchant life. I have a newsletter virtual And of course LinkedIn, and Instagram. I’m all across Asia. But LinkedIn is a good place to find.

Ressa 41:50
Great. Well, Lisa, let’s stay connected. Share ideas. I look forward to catching up with more with you and thanks so much. Yeah, my pleasure.

Thank you for listening to retail retold. If you want to share a story about a retail real estate deal that you were a part of on our show. Please reach out to us at retail retold at DLC This show highlights the stories behind the deals from all perspectives. So it doesn’t matter if you are a retailer, broker, entrepreneur, architect or an attorney. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to retail retold so you don’t miss out on next Thursday’s episode

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