Assortment Planning - Planning for Calendar Shifts with Anaplan

Assortment Planning for Calendar Shifts with Anaplan

Retail planners are responsible for a wide range of duties, which often makes retail planning feel like a juggling act. One of the key responsibilities retail planners have is assortment planning, which is forecasting and planning the proper items and inventory for their categories or stores at different times throughout the year. With that said, calendar planning and anticipating seasonal shifts plays an important role in planning the product mix accurately and effectively.

Effective calendar planning and forecasting helps planners identify important time periods and peaks, understand early selling reads, periods when pricing action is needed, stocking up, setting clearance, identifying supply chain issues, and ensuring a good overall bottom line to reach gross margin goals. Calendar planning relies heavily on anticipating and accounting for calendar shifts throughout the assortment planner's assigned territory. With a planning technology like Anaplan, assortment planning becomes data-driven and efficient to properly forecast for changing calendar shifts throughout the year.

Calendar Shift Challenges

Familiar calendar shifts in the USA include Thanksgiving, Christmas, back-to-school, spring break and Easter. When it comes to Easter, that's where the term 'Marpil' comes into effect. What makes the Easter holiday such a challenging period is that it is the earliest, and biggest selling curve of the year, yet Easter dates are not the same year to year. Accounting for the variance in timing between Christmas and Easter is crucial in determining when to heavily clearance Christmas items, and stock upon foundational merchandise for spring.

Planners need to ensure they are balancing clearance with new stock ups to offset lost revenue from clearing out the Christmas items. The reason this is so frustrating for retail planners is that a moving holiday, like Easter, makes it difficult to know how early and late to take action pre- and -post holiday. To combat the changing dates, most retail planners combine the months of March and April (Marpil), to visualize the Easter sales curve. This helps retail planners obtain a more complete picture of how it will affect your calendar planning for the beginning of the year.

Easter can wreak havoc on your planning system.  

Aside from ‘Marpril’, retail planners need to anticipate other marketing shifts, such as the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, back-to-school, and how the COVID pandemic impacted promotional activity. Spring break is another challenging event because depending on where you are in the country, markdowns and stock ups look very different. For example, in northern states people are looking to escape the cold in warmer weather destinations, yet residents of southern states tend to take vacations in colder climates. These key factors lead to huge variance in key selling items for retailers. Balancing all of these different types of marketing shifts is necessary to prevent loss of revenue due to too much inventory, leading to heavy clearance, or out-of-stocks resulting in customer dissatisfaction and rushing orders.

Big Box Planning Systems

If you're relying on big box planning systems or Excel, calendar planning can feel chaotic and difficult to manage due to the lack of flexibility, visibility, and access to historical data needed to predict dates and promotional activities. Most big box systems are time-consuming, limited in insightful analysis, and prone to human error.

Retail planners can waste an exorbitant amount of time just trying to obtain data before they are even able to analyze it. Not to mention the nightmare that ensues if something is accidentally deleted and breaks your formulas or even the entire system.


This is where Anaplan comes to the rescue for retail planners. Anaplan is a cloud-based technology that harnesses the power of statistical forecasting models to actuate alternative calendars and visualize market shifts. Anaplan provides accurate, insightful, and easy-to-interpret data when looking at assortment planning and calendar shifts. This helps global retail planners prepare for events by using data-driven logic and science to support planning decisions. Anaplan dashboards are aesthetically-pleasing and can be exported directly into PowerPoint for presentations that are highly engaging with little effort.

Anaplan’s collection of pre-determined algorithms looks ahead, rather than backwards, and quickly analyze and forecast marketing shifts to provide global retail planners with the data streams necessary to anticipate how these shifts influence planning and trajectories. By taking advantage of the Anaplan solution, retail planners can see how holidays and days between holidays will affect sales plans and curves, markdowns, and floor sets. Furthermore, Anaplan offers planners the freedom to match off specific weeks to capture marketing shifts, take into account store location, manage alternative calendars, and ultimately calendar plan with ease.

By leveraging the alternative calendar technology, planners can set up calendar plans, go through histories, view fiscal weeks of moving holidays like Easter, and manage the lift of holidays to account for variances and increases. This ensures retail planners understand early selling reads for peak seasons and take appropriate pricing action to minimize markdowns pre- and post-holiday. Retail planners also will have an advantage by sooner reacting to early reads when dealing with re-ordering issues and liability as a result of supply chain issues.

Accelytics’ overall goal is to remove the guesswork and complexity of calendar planning, so retail planners can focus less on juggling marketing shifts, and focus more on analyzing how these shifts impact future planning. With Accelytics' expertise and the technology implementation of Anaplan, retail planners gain flexibility and a blueprint to visualize how to take action in order to meet the objectives of their plan.

If are a retail planner seeking an uncomplicated, user-friendly method to remove the stress out of calendar planning, learn how Accelytics can help transform your planning process.

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