Bakers Footwear is developing targeted assortment plans based on store type and location as it shifts from a reactive business model to a proactive one with the help of Marketmax, a division of SAS.

The mall-based, specialty retailer expects to reduce redistribution costs and increase customer satisfaction following its implementation of the Marketmax Assortment Planning software.

Bakers Footwear keeps a year's worth of store data on merchandise style and colour. Store planners now analyse the previous year's data, identify the chain's hits and misses, and factor in fashion shifts to create a detailed assortment plan, by store cluster (modified by location) and 180 days out.

It can continue to fine-tune the assortment plan until it is time for the merchandise to be received.

"One of the major challenges we faced was identifying the most appropriate assortment mixes for our different stores," said Stan Tusman, executive vice president for Inventory Control and Information Systems at Bakers Footwear.

"While our low-volume stores have a lot less inventory than our high-volume stores, they still need a good mix of styles and colours. We needed help to hone merchandise assortment for each store.

"We use Marketmax to narrow the product assortment while simultaneously ensuring that each store is getting the appropriate selection of styles and colours for its customer demographic."

Bakers Footwear, which operates 200 Bakers and Wild Pair stores nationwide, says it expects to achieve a significant increase in sales growth from its lower-volume stores as a result of refining the shoe assortment.

The company also expects a reduction in redistribution costs from its capacity stores - stores that deal in huge volumes but typically have very small square footage.

"We can watch their assortment levels and ensure that they won't run into the historical problem of having too much inventory to handle," says Tusman.

Bakers Footwear also anticipates a big reduction in markdowns.

"When you are in reactive mode all the time, you make a lot of mistakes," said Tusman. "At the end of each year, we'll have more insight into what was right and what was wrong. This is going to help us identify opportunities for enhancements."