By Billy Maddock, Partner AdMore Buying & Merchandising
Who would not want to go shopping as part of their interview process? This enjoyable and proactive aspect of interview preparation is so important. Apart from the obvious reasons of identifying the culture and familiarising yourself with the product range, conducting a SWOT analysis is the most crucial part of the store visit for retail Buyers and Merchandisers.
The SWOT analysis is useful for extracting more focused and specific information about the company you are interviewing for, and the market you are entering into. Here are some things for Buyers and Merchandisers to consider when conducting a SWOT analysis:
- Determine what the ratio is between own brand and branded products. Are the products mainly own brand or branded? Where do the own brand products lie on the shelves in comparison to the branded options?
- How are the ranges put together? Are they design led or trend led? What are the prices of the products? How competitive are these prices?
- How broad are the product ranges? How many SKUs are on display? What is the availability? Which options are the slow sellers and are they being promoted accordingly? How is labelling and packaging used to support the promotional activity of heavily promoted products?
- Does the retailer offer a good/better/best product option (depending on size of the store) to ensure the customer is offered a variety of choices? How are the goods displayed? Are they going to maximise sales?
When compiling the SWOT analysis, it is also important to consider:
- The image of the store and its footfall. This fundamentally depends on the socio-economic factors of the town/city the store is located in, as different products will be promoted and different price points will be set in accordance to the location of the store.
- What methods are in place that encourage repeat purchases and the return of consumers to the store? For example, Tesco club card points and the Sainsbury’s Nectar card. If the company you are visiting has a loyalty scheme, try and figure out how this can directly influence consumer behaviour.
- What is the margin in comparison to competitors? (i.e. price differences on branded products)
- Are there in-store concessions that could affect sales/ranges? If so, where are these concessions situated within the store? What are the tactics behind this?
- What are the USPs? How does the retailer try and differentiate themselves from their competitors? (E.G. have they got a CSR policy?)
In order to go that one step further, visit more than 1 store. You could visit a huge flagship store (the M&S Marble Arch store – 170,000 sq ft.) as well as a smaller store (in a small town centre) and try to spot the differences by referring back to the points made above. To stand out further, visit a competitor. This is useful to make comparisons between the two as well as painting a picture of what the market looks like, especially if the market is an unfamiliar one to you. For example, if you are a Furniture buyer interviewing for a stationery buying position then it’s important to look at the products in more detail.
It is highly likely that there will be other candidates going for the same vacancy as you for the same retailer, and if they have visited multiple stores and show some of the information discussed above in their interview, and you haven’t, that could be the difference. Don’t take the chance!