Joan Maxwell, former VP of Merchandising at Vera Bradley, shares a nuanced perspective of merchants’ often laborious line review meetings.

During my tenure at Vera Bradley, we worked to create a process for product development that guaranteed success. The keystone meeting within this process became our line review, as it allowed us to plan and manage multiple seasons concurrently. Line reviews are critical to the development of emotionally charged products that excite customers and exceed their expectations. We found it a worthy pursuit to make these meetings as efficient and effective as possible.

Here are a few tips

  • Merchant team develops a game plan for the season to distribute prior to the meeting. This game plan includes external, company, and brand objectives such as macro trends, store openings/closings, sales plans, and product inspiration.
  • Decide what categories your brand wants to own, play, and dabble in within the greater retail environment.
  • Create an environment with no judgement – all ideas, no matter how obscure are welcome.

Make space for the voice of the customer.
Test some concepts early with your key consumer groups in order to:

  • Invite customers behind the “curtain,” creating a level of transparency they will love.
  • Gain valuable insights into demand trends and drivers early in the process to support decisions and maximize margin opportunities.
  • Adjust investments by category based on forward looking projections, not just historical data.
  • Deliver a clear picture of how tastes and preferences differ among key customer segments.

Ultimately, everyone in the room should participate, not just the senior players. And lastly, be sure to end the meeting with agreement on the priorities for the season. Here’s hoping your Line Review Meetings inspire many future bestsellers!

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