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How to Pick Merchandise Planning Attributes
How to Pick Merchandise Planning Attributes

Picking the right attributes for top down planning is an art as much of a science. Below is a quick guide on how to approach it.

Updated over a week ago


For top down planning, each organization will have to determine the attributes to use. Given the high number of attributes that the organization will already be using for slicing and dicing reports, figuring out which attributes to do the top down planning by can be a challenge.

Getting the list of top down planning attributes right is critical and will impact the guidance top-down planning can provide and the level of effort it will require. Planning attributes should be granular enough that each combination of attributes yields distinct forecasting and reporting behaviors, but not too granular to be unwieldy. At the end of the day, there is a reason why top-down planning is separate from bottom-up planning which is the most granular level of planning possible.

Below are some quick guidelines on how to figure out which planning attributes to pick.

Number of planning attributes to pick

The ideal number of planning attributes will depend on the size and complexity of your business, and the size of your planning team. At Toolio, we recommend to maximum 7-8 planning attributes, as too many attributes will make top-down planning unwieldy. For smaller teams, with 1 or 2 planners, we recommend limiting the number of planning attributes to 4 or 5.

After selecting planning attributes, you should look at the number of choices (i.e. style / color combinations) and the size of the topline sales that fall into each combination.

To warrant the time you will spend with top-down planning, the choices falling into each combination should rarely be less than 25 and / or $500K in terms of the topline business. Of course, these are high level guidelines and there could be exceptions. Below is a set of criteria to use while deciding whether or not your selection of planning attributes is sound.

Criteria to use while selecting planning attributes

There are many criteria to use while selecting the planning attributes. Below are the characteristics of well designed planning attributes:


When planning attributes are selected well, the combination of attributes yields a different set of characteristics such as:

  • Sales Seasonality

  • Margin

  • Inventory Productivity targets

Specifically, if the planning attributes are selected wisely, planning each one of them will feel like planning for a different type of business with different characteristics.

For example, let’s say that our planning attributes are Department, Class, Channel and Sales Type. Planning for Mens / Outerwear / Retail / Full Price will feel very different than planning Womens / Tops / Wholesale / Full Price, since seasonality, margin and turn targets will be very different between the two plans.


Values of good planning attributes should not change over time. Consistency will make it easier for you to refer to your historical plans while planning the current seasons and improve your ability to forecast and understand trends.

Retail is a dynamic business, and how you look at the business will naturally over time; however, if you have selected your planning attributes well, these will not be changing much over time.

For example, style name or fabric type rarely make good candidates for top down planning attributes, since these will change a lot over time. However, channel or seasonality would be great candidates, since these will likely be consistent over time.


Select the planning attributes such that roughly 25 choices will fall into each combination of planning attributes. This way top-down planning will be a good guide to drive your assortment planning and item planning processes, without being too loose or restrictive.

Naturally, there will always be some product categories, e.g. gift cards or a new line of business that you might be getting into, that will not neatly fall into the 25 choices per combination approach.

Suggested planning attributes

A typical approach to planning attribute selection is to use a few attributes to capture merchandise hierarchy (e.g. division, department, class), seasonality (e.g. Core vs. Seasonal), channel (e.g. Retail vs. Wholesale) and sale type (full price vs. markdown).

Please see below for what this selection would look like in action:




Mens, Womens, Kids


Clothing, Footwear, Accessories


Outerwear, Tops, Sneakers, Sandals, Bags, Watches


Core, Seasonal


New, Existing


Ecomm, Retail, Wholesale

Sales Type

Full Price, Markdown

Below is a quick overview on how to use these attributes and why they were added:

Division, Department & Class

These were added as attributes describing the major dimensions of the hierarchy. Getting more granular than 3 hierarchy attributes, might be too granular.

Seasonality & Newness

Seasonality is added to distinguish between core vs. seasonal. Core is typically planned using a weeks of supply target (since it's replenished) and Seasonal is planned using sell through %.

Newness is added to distinguish between new vs. existing parts of the business. In many businesses core will always be existing and new will be seasonal. However, this is not necessarily the case.

When core is different than existing, it is valuable to add a new vs. existing attribute, so that existing part of the business can be planned out in isolation, using an extrapolation of recent trends and new can be planned on top of existing.


Each channel has different sales and performance behavior, so it's worthwhile to plan them differently.

Sales Type

Full Price vs. Markdown will have different performance, so it's worthwhile to plan them separately.

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