By Arthur Zaczkiewicz

David J. Katz, of Randa Accessories, and Jim Shea, of analytics firm First Insight Inc., have a cure of “retail sameness.”

The fashion apparel and retail market needs a new map, according to David J. Katz, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Randa Accessories, and Jim Shea, chief commercial officer of analytics firm First Insight Inc.

The two executives shared the stage to share their thoughts and insights on a retail market saturated with sameness where the core tenets of the industry — great products and great service — have been abandoned.

During their presentation, Katz said the department store segment is suffering from a lack of differentiation — at least in the minds of consumers. There’s an overall malaise in the segment, and Katz noted that much of it has to do with not offering shoppers a chance for “discovery and delight.”

Katz said today’s retail market requires data-informed consumer insights and a strategic direction. “You can’t navigate tomorrow’s landscape with yesterday’s maps,” Katz said. “We need new maps.”

Shea said challenges in the market “have a lot to do with product,” he said. “Everything — to the consumer — looks the same.” Shea explained that recent research from his company showed that new product failure rates is 63 percent for men’s wear and 68 percent for women’s wear.

“Which is extraordinarily high,” he said adding that product failure rates are easily “seen on the clearance racks.”

Katz noted that Randa, founded in 1910, is the largest in offering men’s accessories, which includes being the number-one belt vendor to Nordstrom and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Randa accessories are also produced for Guess, Levi Strauss & Co., Anne Klein, Nine West, Cole Haan and Columbia, among many others. Katz said it’s “full market,” where the company can’t gain any more share.

“We can’t increase our market share, so the only growth is in getting consumers to buy more often,” he said adding that using First Insight’s consumer behavior and data-driven technology is helping the company zone in on the “key features that consumers respond to.”

Randa gleaned consumer insights via a survey with First Insight that resulted in preferences for price points and product styles as well as the types of products that could garner more robust gross margins. Katz said First Insight’s predicative analytics is augmented with qualitative and point-of-sale data, which can help in product development as well as marketing.

Katz urged retailers to return to their roots where product discovery was designed to delight and surprise shoppers. Where retailers — especially department stores — were experts in personalization and offering localized assortments. “We have to bring back the treasure hunt,” he said.