What Is an Assortment Strategy?
An assortment strategy in retailing involves the number and type of products that stores display for purchase by consumers. Likewise called a "product assortment strategy," it is a strategic tool that retailers use to manage and increase sales. The strategy is made up of two major components:
- The depth of products offered, or the number of varieties of a specific product a store that carries (e.g. the number of sizes or kinds of the same product).
- The width (breadth) of the product variety, or the number of different types of products a store that carries.
How Assortment Strategies Work
Essentially, a product assortment strategy is a retail industry sales tool with the concepts of depth and breadth at its core. However, not all retailers will actually want to use the two components of this strategy at the same time.
An assortment strategy can have many layers of sub-and related strategies, as each store should fit the strategy to address its own specific needs and objectives.
A deep assortment — the opposite of a narrow assortment — of products means that a retailer carries a number of varieties of a single product. A wide variety — the opposite of a narrow variety — of products means that a retailer carries a large number of different sorts of products.
An assortment strategy isn't one-size-fits-all; it needs to be customized to respond to a business' parameters.
A Challenge for Small Stores
Retailers face a trade-off when determining an assortment strategy. Picking both a wide variety and a deep assortment of products simultaneously requires a large amount of space, and is ordinarily reserved for big-box retailers.
Stores with smaller spaces might choose to specialize in a certain type of product and offer customers a variety of varieties and styles; other stores might offer a deep assortment of products however a narrow variety — one reason why a 7-Eleven (private since 2005) could carry just one brand of canned cat food, for example, while a Kroger (NYSE: KR) likely would have the space to stock 12 brands of canned cat food, in the event that it chose to.
A Brick-and-Mortar Term
Initially, assortment strategy referred exclusively to brick-and-mortar stores because the strategy's components of depth and breadth had a ton to do with physical space and the visual and tactile interaction between consumer and product. Recently, however, all sales venues — brick-and-mortar, click and mortar, and e-tailing — have used varieties of the strategy to gain competitive advantage.
Adjusting for Demographics
By gathering items that they believe will appeal to certain types of customers, retailers might fine-tune their assortment strategies to target consumers' demographic profiles. If a retailer has any desire to draw in customers who are new parents, for example, it could fill the shelves with baby apparel from trendy brands, alongside toys, bedding, and other products new parents need.
A Strategic Selling Tool
A strategically arranged product assortment can upsell customers on supplemental items as they search for the item that brought them to the store.
Gathering related items strategically, whether or not they are necessities, is a common method for invigorating impulse buying:
- By setting garden hoses near sprinklers and other yard care products, a retailer could drive more into a customer's basket. Likewise, introducing a lavish porch eating set — complete with attractive outside dishware and bar accessories — in the more mundane yard-care products might send some customers dashing to the housewares section of the store.
- A presentation of electric lamps — or any battery-driven product — could include a nearby display of the batteries needed to use the product. Or on the other hand a manager could locate the batteries near the check-out counter to remind customers before they leave the store that the spotlight won't work without batteries.
Potential Disadvantages of Assortment Strategies
Albeit the depth of product assortment might help draw in customers, there are certain caveats to relying just on an assortment strategy. Assuming items in an assortment are placed incorrectly, the demand for these products might differ definitely.
In the event that less-well known items are mixed in with famous items, for example, they could detract from the more-well known items' appeal. Or on the other hand, assuming the assortment is too immense, customers might have difficulty finding the item they are seeking. Overwhelming shoppers with too many buying options can be counterproductive and discourage customer engagement.
- An assortment strategy is a strategic retail industry sales tool that optimizes the variety of goods offered available to be purchased.
- This strategy is centered around the concepts of "a deep assortment" and "a wide variety."
- Product assortment strategies started out in the context of brick-and-mortar stores, yet have since been carried over successfully to e-commerce platforms.