Modern Merchandising

WATCH: In Conversation with Abercrombie & Fitch on AI for Planning

Greg Babel
Greg Babel
Apr 11, 2024
5 minutes to read

If you’re looking for an expert on modern fashion and apparel planning, it’s difficult to find a better teacher than Molly Kozar. As Senior Director Omni Location Planning at Abercrombie & Fitch, Molly manages planners that oversee more than 750 stores — a team that has supported Abercrombie & Fitch’s impressive recent success and hyped stock market run.

Molly shared her expertise during a compelling conversation with Meghan Hall, business reporter at Sourcing Journal, and Syrup CEO James Theuerkauf. Watch the full video below for all their thoughts on AI, data, and the challenges of modern merchandise planning. We’ve also pulled out some of our favorite Molly Insights, just keep scrolling.

Data overload is real

We constantly hear about the power and potential of data, but we talk less frequently about how hard it is to manage the deluge of information at our disposal. POS reports, ecom API feeds, heat maps, social trends…the list of potentially useful data can seem endless. And exhausting.

Molly called out that, yes, effective planners do need to consume a significant and growing amount of data to be successful. But no human can do that without some help. She noted the importance of finding the right tool to help you manage the data challenges you face — there’s not a universal solution.

One particularly powerful feature of AI-powered tools is their ability to manage data. They can ingest a much wider array of data than you may be tapping currently, but they don’t stop there. They can also analyze and synthesize that data into actionable chunks. Think of it as your personal translator and strategic assistant.

Set it and forget it? Save that for the informercials

Concerns about AI (and technology in general, really) tend to boil down to: “Is this going to steal my job?” But as with the calculator and spreadsheet before it, AI is simply a tool. And in the right hands, tools are incredibly powerful — but don’t expect them to do all the work for you.

Molly pointed out that planners still need a strong grasp of what drives their business. That’s true whether they’re plugging away in Excel or simplifying life with a technology like Syrup.

The not-so-secret recipe Molly and her team use to make the most of Syrup? Step one: implement a “test and learn” culture that encourages reflection when gut feeling and AI models collide. Step two: cultivate a clear understanding of what is driving the AI model output.

Active and thoughtful use of technology is what helps planning teams thrive.

Wondering how AI can help you make faster planning decisions that boost margin?

Read through our kickstart AI guide, designed specifically for merchandising + planning teams.

Download here

Don’t chase magic bullets — focus on need-solution alignment

Hype is intoxicating — something those in the fashion industry understand better than anyone else. But prudent trend chasers know there’s value in taking a beat to decide if what the hype promises matches what you actually need. And nothing is hotter right now than AI.

Molly noted that just because technology is new and exciting doesn’t necessarily mean it will fit perfectly into your business objectives. She recommends first taking time to identify what you are trying to solve. This may sound like an obvious step, but it’s one we see skipped all too frequently.

With AI in particular, it’s also important to investigate if you have accessible data sources that map to those desired end results. As great as AI is at incorporating new data sets, there is still a decent amount of plumbing required to make it work.

From there, determine what will or won’t work by testing, learning, and evaluating — only then look to fully implement.

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WATCH: In Conversation with Abercrombie & Fitch on AI for Planning

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