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Your Merch Strategy is Going to Fail (So Fail Faster.)

Your merch strategy is destined to face challenges. Extensive hours will be dedicated to discussions with designers and production specialists about seasonal colors, optimal materials, and eye-catching placements. Despite meticulous planning, making a wrong choice before hitting "approve" is inevitable, resulting in an inventory of unsold products.

However, the key lies in swift recovery, strategic re-strategizing, and timely reordering to curate a winning lineup of hot-ticket items.


Big Pile of toys and clothing after a  failed merch run in a giant warehouse.
Piles of Unsold Merch Can be Scary, But if you look closely you can see information.


Let me delve into it further.

A successful merch strategy should adopt an expansive, not reductive, approach to creative product development. Take risks with colorways and new items, place them strategically on the sales floor, and keenly observe customer interactions. Gather data on popular designs and colors, utilizing this information to inform the next round while injecting wild cards to continue experimenting.



Iterative Design

An expansive merch strategy allows for iterative design. Order a diverse selection of items initially, refine successful designs in subsequent rounds, and introduce a B-list of experimental designs on the third iteration. Test on the sales floor, collect data, and repeat the process, resulting in a diverse collection of unique items. Understand that not everything will sell, considering it is part of research and development, not wasted cost.


Better To Get Started.

To rapidly collect data and carve out your A-list Merch Line, initiate the process rather than investing extensively in finding the best option. While merchandise may feel risky, you can control factors leading up to customer reactions. Commence now, gather data, and refine later.


When ordering, keep in mind to aim just above the minimum line (50-100 pcs), benefiting from quantity price cuts while avoiding sunk costs. Overcome the fear of failure; recontextualize it as an integral part of the learning process. Flexibility in adverse conditions ensures staying on top of your industry. Treat failed items as valuable feedback, ask specific questions to identify conditions, and consistently strive to ask better questions.


A Large Pile of clothing due to a failed merch strategy in a warehouse of all colors and types.
Each Unique Merch Design Item is an opportunity to build itterative design workflows.


Why Your merch strategy should Fail Faster

In the pursuit of success, adopting rapid iteration as a guiding principle is crucial. Acknowledge that failures are not dead ends but vital checkpoints on the path to refinement. Actively seek out failures early in the process to gain valuable insights for swift adjustments. This mindset fosters a culture where experimentation takes precedence, facilitating efficient evolution, strategy honing, and ultimately achieving success through the iterative process of trial and error.


In conclusion

navigating the intricate terrain of merchandise development demands a fearless embrace of failure and a commitment to the iterative journey. The inevitability of setbacks becomes a springboard for growth when viewed as valuable checkpoints rather than insurmountable obstacles. By actively seeking out failures, collecting data, and rapidly iterating, individuals and businesses alike can propel themselves toward success through the refinement born from experimentation. Let go of the fear, treat failures as feedback, and, most importantly, remember that the road to a thriving merchandise lineup is paved with lessons learned, adjustments made, and an unwavering dedication to the process of continuous improvement. So, in the ever-evolving landscape of creativity and commerce, embrace failure, learn swiftly, and let each setback guide you toward a more resilient and successful future.

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