Analysts' Perspective - January 2004


"For success in 2004, manufacturers must continue to offer a competitive price, quality product and on-time delivery. Retailers must know the fair market cost (not the lowest cost), have fair quality standards and process orders on a timely basis to ensure on-time delivery. Finally, globalization requires both manufacturers and retailers to recognize and adapt to unfamiliar business practices."
Bruce Berton, Officer/Director, International Business Consulting

"Renew focus on employee retention and training. As the basics of the general economy begin to improve, your human resources tactics will have to change as well. Lower unemployment means that your recruiting and hiring processes must be more sound because there will be less talent in the applicant pool. More focus should be put on retention and training because finding qualified applicants will become more difficult and expensive."
Warren Bobrow, Principal, The Context Group

" 'Reach out and touch someone,' your ultimate consumer. It is critical today to understand what triggers the consumer of your product(s) as a retailer or a manufacturer. Understanding the lifestyle and interests of these consumers will help you connect with them and make the purchasing experience rewarding. Without this understanding and connection, your consumers will find someone else that they can identify with and 'endorse' them by buying the product. It is not good enough to rely on others to market your brand. You must do it yourself to the ultimate core user, with sensitivity to age, culture and lifestyle."
Marshal Cohen, Chief Indutry Analyst, The NPD Group Inc.

"Go out and find niche markets . but no longer purely demographic ones. Everyone is into demographics, so it's very hard to discover anything new and reap a competitive advantage. In addition to counting households, we need to know the hearts and souls of our customers . their values, feelings and what they cherish. Niche business opportunities will emerge as we begin to penetrate traditional demographic platforms (ethnicity, education, etc.) and drill down to human dispositions. Attitudinal research is the platform of the future; those who only focus on demographics risk being swept into the dustbin of history."
Bill D'Arienzo, CEO, WDA Marketing Solutions

"This will be a great opportunity to get customer service right! With the economy opening up, the consumer will be more active in 2004, albeit still in the 'practical consumer' mode. (No bubble-economy aggressive spending yet). We know how enormously profitable the loyal customer is. As they start buying again, recapture their loyalty. I'd retrain all customer-facing staff, teaching them to love the customer (or at least admire the future profit stream). There will be little need to cut prices; quality will sell again. But taking care of the customer will be the trump card. To appreciate the impact fully, push the executive leadership team in front of customers ... man the call center phones regularly ... show up on the floor for an hour at a time ... shop the store where the best customer service is offered and figure out how to beat it. ... Lately when I place a call and hear ' ... this call may be monitored for customer service quality ... ' my reaction is, 'No it won't!' In the cut-costs environment of the last recession, customer service activities were slashed. The first and best movers here will win big."
Thomas L. Doorley III, CEO, Sage Partners LLC

"Challenge your brand portfolio strategy and clearly define the consumer and competitive position for your brands. The apparel brand landscape will go through dynamic changes in 2004 and beyond as consumer segments fragment, new brand influences continue to emerge, retailers pursue differentiation strategies and branded apparel companies continue to acquire and migrate brands. Profitable growth will require strong brand management skills over more diverse portfolios of specific consumer targeted brands."
Jim Neal, Director of Strategy Practice in Soft Goods, Kurt Salmon Associates

"Brand managers' relentless focus on cost reduction has led them to lose sight of their essential mission, which is to excite consumers and generate top line sales growth. The current fascination with sourcing in the Far East is mostly cost-driven, but the added lead times seriously hamper companies' ability to respond to demand signals. The result: too much of the wrong product choking store shelf space. The combination of componentized product development, smarter sourcing strategies and extended supply chain visibility technologies can support the long overdue resurgence of fashion and a return to an age of profitable innovation."
Paula Rosenbblum, Research Director, AMR Research

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