Thinking Inside the Box: To everything, there is a season

March 30, 2012
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It’s that time of the year when seasons are changing.


It’s that time of the year when seasons are changing. Pete Seeger adapted verses from The Book of Ecclesiastes in 1959 and wrote his immortal song. He released his own version in 1962. He was followed by Judy Collins in 1963 and then in 1965 by the version most of us still remember, sung by The Byrds.
In the Northern Hemisphere, we are headed into fall and winter. In the more southern parts of the world, they are getting ready for summer. I have been in Australia, New Zealand and Chile in the last few weeks and saw the stores full of merchandise for the coming warm months.
Farther north, we are busy heading back to school and watching temperatures fall. Which brings me to stores, their new merchandise and planning. Of course, for those of us involved in the management of that pipeline of new products, we are fiendishly finalizing plans for launches targeted at Summer 2012. If you’re not, then maybe you have “missed the boat.” It behooves all of us to be thinking ahead. Not just round the corner to next month, but seriously ahead.
The whole concept of managing that pipeline and ensuring that it is filled with the right products, fit for purpose in terms of the category and the shelf, fit for the brand or sub brand, fit for the pockets of your consumer and above all, fit for the season.
Pete had it right. There has to be a season. And we have to manage our launches and plans to fit into that season as it turns. And turns.
The pipeline needs serious management. From ideas to product specs and design through qualification, plant audits and trials and, finally, to launch. So many retailers and manufacturers alike miss some of these critical steps and the products miss the target. Missing the target is easy. There are so many variables and criteria that can stall the process along the way. If your management is not robust in its processes and controls, then your launches will not be robust and successful in meeting the needs of the customer at the right time and at the right price.
So folks, think about your process. Think about the seasons and their changes. And think about your pipeline. If your process takes an average of eight months, then counting forward eight months from your inserting an item into the pipeline brings you to a critical date. Will it be freezing then, and your product is for the BBQ?
Think long and hard. And ask project managers and product developers if they are on track. Or even if they have a track to be on.
Be ruthless. Check that pipeline every week. Whether by PLM software, by your Excel spreadsheet or by the chart on your wall. If you are going to be late, re-schedule. Now.
One of the lines from Pete Seeger: “A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.”
Maybe put this line on the wall above the plan or into the software program as a reminder.
 
Tom Stephens is the founder of Brand Strategy Consultants, North York, Ontario. He can be reached at 416-391-1635 or VOIP him at: Vonage 416-907-9848 or Skype at stephenscrimson, or e-mail at tomstephens@brandstrategyconsultants.ca Stephens says thinking “inside the box” is often appropriate, since answers to 90 percent of retail problems can be found inside the four walls of the store.

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