Sunday, 24 November 2013

So as I mentioned, I was in France towards the end of last week - visiting stores, checking the managers were happy with everything before Christmas, checking I was happy with everything before Christmas.

Feeling was good, though sales at the moment aren't the best. No manager complained about their level of any particular product - that was a relief, I can tell you! And they're all positive about our Christmas range. It's normal for French Christmas shoppers come out later than their British cousins, after all.

With sales sluggish, I'm planning to put together some analysis of last year, look at exactly when we saw an increase, how it developed and if there are any telltale, early stages.

I'm going to be applying my last ideal stocklevel increases before the next few orders. And as I say, before every order I check last years' sales for a period equivalent to the one this order is meant to last and increase levels as necessary.

There are a couple of products - our bestsellers, products customers are saying they 'esperent recevoir de père Noël' (are hoping to receive from father Christmas)... - that I want to keep an eye on. I'll look at the percentage sales increase per week for that product (or similar) last year. And make sure that, given each week's sales this year, they have enough to sustain them.

These are interesting weeks, you can feel the excitement - you could cut it like a ripe French cheese (brought back some super, buttery saint marcellin, by the way). But for the moment, we just have to sit and check (and double check and triple check) and wait.

If customers delay Christmas shopping much longer though, I'll have to start transferring November sales into December - and then things'll get really interesting!

So Paris wasn't all work - it's a playful city too. I made it back to my favourite Lebanese take-away, near the Pompidou centre, where I had a crisp, flaky lebanese pizza, slathered in aromatic thyme herb-mix, zaatar. Once again I promised myself I'd try making zataar - and this time I actually stuck to my word. See below for the not so so shabby results.

Paris always makes me want to buy candles; they do candles very well the Parisians, from historic Cire Trudon, to society-staple Diptyque, to young, fashionable brands like 'Popup Paris', which puts a diamond in 1 out of every 50 of its candles! Above, there are a few on a thyme-theme that I think you might like.

American brand Izola's candles are made from vegetable wax and come in recycled glass containers, $35; Cire Trudon has supplied royalty and the church since 1643 - Empire combines lavender, marjoram, thyme and rosemary, juniper, sage, pine and hay! €60; St Eval make all their products in Cornwall - like this thyme and mint scented candle, £7.85; Fornasetti's candles make a visual and olfactive statement, effusing incense, thyme, lavender, orris (or iris root) and cedarwood. Famous artist, Piero Fornasetti, collected owls wherever he went, and once even organised an exhibition of what he had 'deniched' - hence the print; €130 

Enjoy the rest of your weekend x

Zataar - 2 bunches of thyme, 3 tsp sesame seeds, 3 tsp sumac, pinch salt, olive oil; Pizza - 250g strong white flour, 125ml warm water, 1/2 tbsp dried yeast, 2 tsp sugar, pinch salt and pepper

Dissolve the yeast in 75ml of the water and leave for 10m. Sift the flour and then stir in the yeasty mixture, the sugar and seasoning. Add the rest of the water little by little. When it comes together, flour your hands and the work surface and kneed for 10m. Leave to prove for 1-2 hours. Knock the dough back and kneed again for a minute or two. Halve the dough and gently roll it and stretch it to form two pizza bases.
Strip the leaves from the thyme (you'll get thyme under your finger nails, but it smells lovely), chop finely and place in a mortar. Toast the sesame seeds and add to the thyme along with the sumac and salt. Pound for a couple of minutes. Add olive oil until you have a pesto-like consistency.
Spread over your pizza bases, adding black olives, chopped halloumi, roasted cherry tomatoes if you like, and bake at 190oC until your pizzas are crisp enough for you.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

In my last post I described how, in early autumn, I put together a November and December forecast, per sku, per store. What remained was the getting the stock of to the stores.

We have stores of very different sizes. Some I send stock more regularly than others - if they have a decent storeroom, I send more, less often, to save on delivery.

Over time (quite a long time, truth be told!), the store managers and I have thrashed out an agreement on how much stock they should hold - their average sales for the period between their orders, plus a certain percentage we're both comfortable with.

So now I had to recalculate the levels of stock they should be holding on to, but instead of using average sales, substituting the units they were forecast to sell in November/December.

For each order we had scheduled, I used a combination of the November forecast, the December forecast and (for late October orders/end of December orders) average sales.

I'll be updating minimum stock levels in the point of sale system as we move through the next two months. Then, when orders are placed, the stores' current stock will be subtracted from their minimum stock and they'll be sent the difference.

Maybe next year I'll be forecasting with weekly specificity... though then there's be a risk that the sharp increase in sales when people start buying presents would come earlier and the stock wouldn't be ready. I'll have to ask what's best - what are your thoughts?

I try to get to work pretty early, particularly in the run up to Christmas. The French warehouse is an hour ahead of course, and I like to be there if they need to contact me.

Ruda Rings, Brazilwood and Vanadinite Ring; Nasomatto, Silver Musk £108; Bonne Maman, Confiture de Châtaignes à la Vanillee / L’Occitane, Thé Vert & Bigarade £49; Jiro Kamata, BI Necklaces; Bluebird Tea Co., Matcha teas from £15 / Annick Goutal, Ninfeo Mio €98 (approx. £85); Fortnum and Mason, Coronation Majestic Marmalade £6.95; Decadorn, Citrine Pendant £58

My morning routine keeps me going through the winter months - a bowl of porridge, a day-defining accessory and a stimulating-spritz fragrance.

I like to whisk some matcha into a little water at approx 80oC - this I stir into a cooling bowl of porridge and top with some blueberries, or nuts, or dried fruit - excellent if you're coming down with something and tasty too! A spoonful of marmalade (this one contains gold leaf) in the middle of your porridge is beautiful and delicious. When it's really cold and work's really high pressure, some creme de marron stirred through your oats is a great incentive to get up and out.

The mineral necklaces are by an amazing London brand called Decadorn. The others are by a Japanese designer working in Germany. The sustainable wooden rings are by a Brazilian one.
Silver Musk is by mysterious brand Nasomatto; Thé Verte et Bigarade is a calming concoction of green tea and bitter orange; Ninfeo Mio combines lemon, orange and figs, for some real zest in the morning.

In my next post, I'll describe the stocklevel checks I put in place, being a bit of a worrypot. Or perhaps I can tell you about a little work trip to Paris I'm on at the moment.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

I'm being a bit brave, starting a new blog now.  The next couple of months are the busiest of year for me. At the same time, they're the most interesting, so hopefully I'll find time to record them.

I'm a merchandiser working in the beauty industry. I allocate out stock to our stores and our website warehouse and I analyse sales across the wholesale and direct channels. As with most jobs, there's a bit of sprawl, so I'm involved in some logistics and retail operations as well.

Last week, most of my stores received their first delivery based on their elevated Christmas stock levels. In this, my first post, I’m going to start by describing how this came about.

The first step was working out much we expect each store to take on each category of goods. To do this, we looked at last year's sales breakdown per category and how the retail business has been trending over the past few months. We're hoping to see some healthy growth.

Then, taking the percentage of last year's overall category sales represented by each sku and multiplying it by our category forecast, we predicted how much of each product each store would sell.

We had to consider whether sales of now-discontinued products would be made up by sales of similar products. New launches and the Christmas box sets were forecasted separately; for these we considered past launches, extrapolated sales-to-date and fed in the general feeling around the products. Pretty rigorous!

Having predicted sales by product by store for November and December, we had to work out how to achieve a good flow of stock into the stores. Now, this is the bit that makes you toss and turn at night. If you get it wrong, there'll be stockouts over Christmas. And then, if you're anything like me, you won't sleep for remorse, ever, ever again!

I'll tell you all about it in my next post.

So this is what I'd like to be spending my merchandiser's salary on this week. It's getting cold outside now and you need to think about protecting your hands – particularly if you're out watching fireworks, admiring the autumn leaves, etc.

(Clockwise from top left) Chill Hand Lotion 02, Karmameju, 349DKK - about £40 ; Tea and Oranges Hand Lotion, Emma Bridgewater, £12 ; Whisky and Water Hand Lotion, Noble Isle, £20 ; Personalised KeepCup from £7.80 ; Pom Pom Scarf, NW3 by Hobbs, £55 ; Chunky Mittens, Cos, £25 ; Silly Billy Nail Laquer, Butter, £12 ; Light Drizzle Nail Varnish, Topshop £6

Normally I swear by Neutrogena Norwegian Formula, but this year I'd also like to try Chill Hand Lotion for sensitive skin by Karmameju (very into Nordic beauty products at the moment). I'm interested in Noble Isle as a brand and Whisky & Water is an unusual fragrance – warming! Emma Bridgewater's Tea & Oranges Lotion sounds simply delicious.

Hope you’re looking after yourself this winter!