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When go go into a store, what is the top thing that annoys you? Chances are it’s not being able to find what you want. The jacket you love isn’t in your size and the sales person is trying to sell you something you don’t want. Ugh. It’s even worse for the retailer, because she is faced with an impossible task - predict what her customers are going to buy in the next 6 months to a year. When she is wrong (always), here are the problems:


  • The most popular products sell out quickly. She doesn’t have what the customer wants.
  • The least popular products don’t sell at all. End of season sales, sales associates pushing these products, prominent display space is used. She is trying to sell what the customer doesn’t want.


What are retailers to do? To find out, meet Mary.


Mary's Aprons


Mary has a business called Mary’s Aprons. She sells two types of aprons: “Kiss the Cook” and “Short Order Cook Also Short Tempered.” Her season is 6 months long and she thinks she will sell 1000 aprons each month, half “Kiss” and half “Short.” She makes her order for her stock. Her inventory investment was $60,000.


ApronsQuanity OrderedPricePurchase
Kiss The Cook3,000$20$10
Short Order Cook Also Short Tempered3,000$20$10


After Mary made her order, two major things happened. The first was a massive mononucleosis outbreak. This was covered heavily in the media and anything to do with kissing was avoided by everybody. It even got so bad, the rock band KISS cancelled a scheduled concert. The second was the sudden popularity of a reality TV show about a 4 foot tall, foul-mouthed chef. This took popular culture by storm. It was “Where’s the Beef?, Git-Er-Done and You Go Girl!” all rolled into one. These events had a profound effect on Mary’s sales.


Kiss The Cook


ApronsSales Per MonthInventory After 6 Months
Kiss The Cook2001,800
Short Order Cook Also Short Tempered1,5000


Mary sold out of the “Short” Aprons after only 2 months, and ended up with 1800 unsold “Kiss” aprons. In fact, the only ones that bought the “Kiss” aprons were hipsters who were doing so “ironically.” The effect on her business was horrendous. Next Page --->