Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Long Time No Blog

Hi readers!

I am so sorry for my lack of updates. The last six weeks have flown by in a whirlwind of excitement, stress, and fun. Since my last blog post I have successfully moved to the Big Apple, Concrete Jungle, Best City In The World: New York. I have learned how to navigate uptown, downtown, and a pinch of Brooklyn. And most importantly, I have discovered the beauty of Seamless. Did you know you can get Dunkin Donuts delivered right to your front door?!

Before moving to New York I was extremely anxious. In three years of living in Philadelphia I still get Market, Chestnut, and Walnut Streets confused. The thought of riding the Metro after dark terrified me, and I was convinced that moving two hours away from all of my friends would instantly make them forget I existed. I was convinced that this city would chew me up and swallow me whole.

I am happy to say I have survived the first two months of living in New York without so much as a scratch. The first few days were a tad overwhelming, but once I figured out my route to work I got slightly braver. (I take the M23 Bus to 6th Ave then switch to the F or M train and get off at 42nd St- Bryant Park, in case you were wondering.) The first few weeks I chose to walk home from work, always a different route, to try and get my bearings. I now am comfortable with my little slice of the city and am eager to explore new areas during my free time.

Being a new resident of New York is an entirely new sensory experience. The sheer number of restaurants within three square blocks of my apartment is astounding. It seems impossible to be bored here, there is just too much to do! No matter the time of day or night there are always people walking around, enjoying a glass of wine at a roof top bar or seeing a performance. In my future posts I will write more about my observations in the City. I plan on making the most of the few weeks I have left before returning to Philly for my Senior year (eek!).




Hands On, Ideas Arise, Problems Out

    Over the past week, working at Loft, still both in their Rittenhouse and University City locations, I have found my mind combing over the same retail-related problem over and over again--back stock.  It is something I have found to spark interest in me beforehand but lately, switching from summer to pre-fall wear, I cannot seem to get it out of my head.

    There is a double-edged sword that comes with back stock.  Realistically, you cannot have your stock on the sales floor all at one moment.  It is only natural that you have to keep inventory in some sort of back closet, basement, or other storage area that allows you to properly sort and access easily when needed to.  However, the con to carrying products that do not initially make it to the floor is that the never do make it to the floor.  They have a harder time ridding themselves of the title "back stock."  The reason for this is simple.  Retail is a hidden and complicated network that works its best to appear seamless and put-together at the forefront to customers.  But nothing is ever perfect in the retail world, whether it is under-staffing, an unexpected rush, or, just simply put, too many tasks and too little time and employees.  With this, it is unrealistic to stay on top of replenishing inventory regularly, especially when there are more pressing things to do, which is almost always.  I have seen multiple times over, merchandise sit in the back of the store completely untouched.

    A lot of this stems from the product itself.  Popular items usually do not last long in back stock as one would expect.  When running dry on the floor, popular products are more likely to be asked about by clients.  However, this does not necessarily mean that the items untouched in inventory are unpopular.  Many are overlooked.  Especially when turning over seasons, as we are now, more merchandise is marked down to put in the sale section, while new full-price merchandise is brought in.  This means moving what was priorly taking up the majority of the store's space and squeezing it into a section that is approximately one-sixth of the store with the prior sale merchandise that already resides there.  This being said, you do a size run, leaving 2-3 sizes, depending on space available, on the floor, and back stock the rest of it with the intention of bringing it to the floor later.  However, it builds up.  Eventually there are more markdowns or a busy month or some other sort of distraction that does not allow time for replenishing, and next thing, there is more sale inventory being stored in the back than new full-price merchandise, meaning it is not selling.  Again, a common problem with this is being overlook.  Either a salesperson does not realize there is sale back stock and says what is on the floor is what we carry or the customer just assumes so, being that it is the sale section, leaving an abundance of merchandise completely untouched season after season after season.

   So, is there a solution?  Or do we just need to come to terms that it is unrealistic to stay on top of replenishing stock?  While condensing the Petites Sale section in Rittenhouse a week and a half ago, I could not help but cringe at how much merchandise would likely get stored and forgotten, leaving me ultimately brainstorm a solution.  In today's technology-dependent world, there is a solution.  We are already more than halfway to it, too.  SKUs allow companies to keep track of what a store has sold, what is still in stock, what a store is unable to sell, and so much more.  Through SKUs and style numbers, there are already a number of networks that allow you to look at the register if your store or another store currently has an item and polls overnight for what's been sold and what has not.  The next step to this is monitoring inventory in a single store, both on the floor and not.  I believe in a system that allows the employee to scan stock as it arrives and indicate whether that specific SKU lives on the floor or in the back.  The system allows you to keep three of each size on the floor at a time, a number I find ideal in a size run.  The final--and most crucial--part of this system is it's role in replenishment.  Overnight, while polling inventory for corporate, it would poll for managers' use also.  In the morning, if needed, but not every day, when opening, the manager would open to a notification or notifications alerting the manager to replenish the floor with a specific quantity, size, and style of an item.

   I believe this kind of system is not hard to accomplish, especially with the different type of networks I have seen so far at Loft between our own Style Finder and online orders that come through the store.  My idea is ultimately a combination of what already exists.  In the end, this keeps the store stock balanced (not too much on the floor and none forgotten) and from needing to hire an employee solely for stock purposes.  All in all, an achievable solution to an easily fixable problem.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Plaids, Petals & Paisleys

This week at Nicole Miller has been all about the sale and the arrival of the Pre-Fall collection!  With discounts from 50% to 75% off, clients have been pouring in to look at what great styles are fashion steals as the store moves into the Pre-Fall collection.  I personally have been "ooo-ing and ahh-ing" every time we receive a few Pre-Fall pieces as I find the boho chic inspiration very appealing. For this collection, Nicole is combining multiple prints with deep, dark and rich tones.  She also shows lots of layering and mixing and matching for the unpredictable weather that arrives during the September and October months. Plaids, petals and paisleys are gracing the slouchy silhouettes.  These garments speak for themselves and do not need a lot of styling, but you can always enhance your NM look with a great pair of boots and a chic hat. Feel free to check out the look book and get a taste of what we are featuring at Nicole Miller at the Bellevue!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Location, Location, Location

    Over the past week and a half now, I have been bouncing between Loft stores, the one on 17th and Walnut in Rittenhouse Square and the one on 36th and Walnut in University City, an extraordinary amount.  I am often asked by my managers and family which of the two I prefer.  The University City is my home store.  I was hired there.  I was trained there.  I have worked about 8 months there now and hold an incredible bond with the my team there.  I love the Rittenhouse store about equally but in a different sense.  Although I have less of a close bond with their team, that is to be assumed.  I have been helping out there sporadically for the past two months with many of their employees coming and going, making it hard to get close with the team.  However, I love the managers there with whom I work regularly and the hustle and bustle atmosphere in Rittenhouse Square, and now the Rittenhouse store has an equal part of my heart as the University City store.

    However, how can I have a mutual preference to both of these stores as they have both played out very differently in this past 8 months?  Despite both being Loft, they are so different.  Obviously the team make up is different, along with some slight differences between management teams.  However, those aren't the largest differences I have come to notice.

   Firstly, the store set ups could not be more different.  If it were not for the merchandise, I would feel like I was going between two completely separate companies.  The Rittenhouse Square Loft's interior is two stories designed in sleek darks with dark granite tile floors, dark woodwork, and sleek silver fitting rooms and finishings.  The overall atmosphere is very cosmopolitan, fitting for Center City, and has a more professional, high-profile feel.  Meanwhile, the University City store, although still having a natural cosmopolitan feel to it, is much brighter and a much smaller space.  There are a great number of more windows, white tiled floors, white ornate ceilings, and the woodwork is all light wood, giving the store a lighter feel.

   Although I believe the main difference is attributed to one being more outdated than the other, the Rittenhouse store being the former design look for Loft stores, they both work for different reasons, more specifically the clientele.  The clientele between stores is probably the largest difference I have yet to encounter.  Like any brand, Loft has a target audience, and although I definitely see that audience at both stores, I have found the slight difference in the audience to be most shocking.  For example, the University City Loft has a much greater concentration of foreign customers.  I originally thought Center City would have an equivalent amount, as Rittenhouse is an obvious tourist destination.  After much thought, I came to the conclusion that there are a handful of foreign clients that trickily through the Rittenhouse Loft, but the large difference comes from the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, both holding large populations of inter nation students and both surround the University City loft.  The next difference in clientele is the working woman.  Again this surprised me, as I originally thought that there would be more of that audience in Center City.  However, I have noticed that with offices, hospitals, and more in University City, the majority of our clients--even more so than students--comes from these professionals whom work in the neighborhood.  While at Rittenhouse, there are working women that come through, but I see more young women pushing strollers that seem to be stay-at-home moms.

   Lastly, after getting in a  routine of working in Center City last week almost everyday, I became more aware of my surroundings.  I would either take the Market Frankfurt Line to 15th Street Station or the Drexel shuttle to 15th and Race Streets.  Both ways, I would walk straight down past City Hall until reaching Walnut Street, and then turn right until I hit Loft.  This being a ten minute walk in the general area of Center City, I also experienced an incorrect assumption about this walk and area.  The atmosphere from the walk from the City Hall area to Walnut has a unique, more dirty odor, with a significant number of more beggars, homeless people, and vendors.  Almost immediately after making that right onto Walnut Street, I notice a change.  The people are more put together--some professionals, some families doing shopping.  Naturally, City Hall and Rittenhouse Square are different but until this week I did not notice how large the difference is in the two atmospheres, being blocks away from each other.

And that just went to even further prove me wrong that despite being Ann Taylor Lofts in Philadelphia there is no reason to assume they would be similar.  If the small distance between City Hall and Rittenhouse is so different, it only makes sense why my home store and newly visiting store are quite different.  Specific location (down to the block) has a much greater impact on retail and life in general than one would assume.

Now just imagine how different the Loft store in Liberty Place is; that's just a Venn diagram waiting to happen.


Friday, July 18, 2014

PR Intern Class

My favorite part about my new internship is the free Parson's class offered on Thursdays. The professor holds class for an hour and teaches the interns the ins and outs of public relations and surviving in the fashion industry. He is very up to date on social media and how to use this type of networking to our future advantage. Many of his former students are doing big things within the industry and he seems to have a connection just about everywhere!
We are working on a project in class that is titled "The Anatomy of a Magazine". I got assigned the men's magazine Details. This is the first time I have picked up an issue of this magazine but certainly not the last. For this project, (that is not worth a grade, credit, or anything really) I have to dissect each section of the magazine, predict the December cover and spread, and track their social media presence.
I will attach the finish product when it is complete!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Set Sale!

Nicole Miller at the Bellevue is ready to "set sale" this week!  From July 15th - 31st we will be featuring discounts from 50%-75% off!  It only happens twice a year so make sure you grab these stunning summer styles!  

The beginning of the week has been all about the window displays and now they are covered from sun to sand with our beach-y, nautical theme.  The NM visual team got the creative juices flowing and rocked it out with banners, bikinis and beach balls.  Guests of the building have already been stopping and staring at our wet and wild windows as we gear up for the semi-annual sale.



Take a quick peak!....



Want more?! You'll have to come visit us at Nicole Miller at the Bellevue!

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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Cultural Classroom

There comes a point in higher education when you find yourself eager for your classes, excited to share something you've discovered with your professor, and overall relating more and more of what you've learned in the classroom to outside of it.  Or at least, you are fortunate if you can get to this point in education, fortunate if you can find that niche of passion that you give your unrelenting dedication.

This "a-ha" feeling generally comes to people later on in college, after completing gen-ed's and delving into the depths of their chosen degree.  I've been blessed to have felt this sense of belonging to my major since the Fall Quarter (2013) of my sophomore year.  I knew early on I needed to be in the fashion industry, but, to say the least, the freshman design courses and I did not make a good pair.  So when heading further into the Drexel Design and Merchandising curriculum, I found my place and my place found me--the business end in the fashion industry.  Numbers, buying, percentages, and Excel are just a few words that bring a smile to my face, so it was no wonder that when I took Retail Merchandise Planning this past spring I was in absolute heaven.

Despite doing math problems for homework, creating buying plans, and toying with Excel, there was something particular about this class that sparkled in my eyes.  For one of the first times, I was able to make connections between my life outside of the classroom and my life within without being prompted.  The majority of the merchandise planning class was first spent defining terms, such as mark downs, mark ups, stock, and more, and second, defining these terms in the sense of their purpose, how they're used, and their context in retail.

When looking at their place in retail, I noticed these terms to be remarkably similar to knowledge I already had.  It didn't take me long to realize that this similarity was not found in a past class whatsoever but at my job at Loft.

Despite already loving my job, I now had a newfound love for it, being able to understand a lot of the going-ons in the background.  The abundant amount of sales and promotions Loft has that I mentioned in my last post ("Survival of the Fittest: Safari of the Sale") suddenly made sense.  Although I had a semi-realization much earlier on that retail stores in general that have regular promotions set prices much higher, using promotions to make customers think they are getting a deal, I now knew this was fact.  I knew why Loft held these promotions.  I knew that Loft did not view mark downs as a monetary loss, but as a way to make net profit.  I knew the reasoning of certain items going on sale faster than others.  I knew how Loft created stock turnover and generated new regular clients.  I knew the background of Loft's numbers.

And I could not be any luckier to have had this indescribable connection to a future career before hitting 20 years of age, and that is something else I know.