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Marlow Talks Combos

kitorderAs retailers continue to squeeze as much as they can out of their supply chain they are continuing to look at having the right product in the right place. To faciliate this, many are looking at working with assortments, musical runs, or prepacks which they will create by region. Two years ago I wrote an article on this topic, but thought it woud be relevant to address the concept again and make sure that if your company is considering supporting multiple skus, sizes, and color products within a caselot or prepack, that you are aware of what others are doing, in order to support a colaboration with your trading partners.

As a reminder, Assortments/Musical Runs/Prepacks are a configuration of an given product style, usually by color or size, but can be represented as a kit (multiple unlike products). Each of these terms is a bit different, so let me define each based on whether they are Supplier configured or Retailer configured -

  • * Supplier configured assortments are pre-determined assortment of size, colors or combination of both as established by the suppliers. In this scenario, the supplier likely has a separate part number or UPC representing the assortment.
  • * Retailer configured assortments are

o Pre-determined assortment of size, colors or combination of both agreed upon between the supplier and Retailer specific to the Retailer. In many cases, the supplier will have pre-build this type of assortment in preparation for the specific Retailer's orders. Again, this assortment my have its own UPC or Vendor assigned part number..

o Musical Runs assortments are established per individual order; the components that make up the Assortment will change from Purchase Order to Purchase Order. One order may represent 4 – Large, 3 – Medium and a small size of an item, and then on a different order will request a Extra Large, 2 – Large, 4 – Medium and 2 - small size of a item.
Probably one of the most important things a retailer can do for the supplier is to be consistent with the industry around the EDI segments and elements that are used to report the configuration to the suppliers in the EDI PO (and POC).

Assortment – If the assortment is a pre-determined configuration either by the retailer or the supplier, most will agree to have the item sent in the EDI orders with this Assortment UPC or Vendor Part number. For some trading partnerships the retailer may include the configuration of the pre-defined case packaging as they would for a Musical run. The most useful way of communicating the details of the configuration is to list the style of the item in the PO1 segment (POC segment of the 860) and then indicate the running list of the individual components of the assortment in the SLN segment within the item loop.

The SLN segment would then indicate the Color and Size of the items, the quantities and the UPC number associated with each component. Some retailers will include the cost or Retail price by size and color, depending on whether a given component may vary from others within the assortment. In some cases the retailer will include a reference number that is associated with the assortment for the musical run instead of an assortment UPC (i.e Footlocker refers to these as a “Caselot” number). Others will simply have a buyer part number representing “musical run” number.

I strongly discourage a retailer using the PO1 segment for reporting each of the components instead of the SLN segment. This is confusing to the suppliers, because they have no idea when a PO1 segment is for a bulk or for an assortment. Those that work with KidsRUs understand what I’m talking about here. In their case they use the SAC segment for reporting the item packaging, which is not the common use. Providing the supplier's UPC by component is what makes supporting assortments/musical runs in a way that it can be automated. In the case of KidsRus the suppier's UPC by size is nowhere within the component details.

 Kit – Supporting Kits via EDI transactions is new to many retailers. Similar to Assortments for apparel, the kit number is assigned by the retailer in the PO1 segment and the components of the kit are reported at the SLN level, thus the vendor UPC and Vendor Item number can be supported correctly.

There are quite a few retailers now that are asking the suppliers to display the contents of the cartons containing the assortment/kit details if packed with the same carton on a label. For those retailers that are looking at this, make sure you are sending the data needed on the PO that will allow the supplier to populate this information in the label. Also, be clear whether the requirement is to be on a separate “content” label or if the current label is acceptable to indicate this information and where.

If your company is considering the use of “Musical Run” assortments, make sure that you collaborate with your trading partners prior to introducing this concept. I have seen instances in which Retailers assume that if a supplier can do EDI, that they can also support “Musical Run” assortments. Supporting this type of ordering requires changes to supplier’s business processes, such as altering the production line or requiring a staging area within the production plant where individual sizes are produced and stored, until all size runs are completed, then packing the assortments as a final step.

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