Coach is cutting its handbag styles by half. Bed Bath & Beyond is reducing its can opener selection by two-thirds. Kohl’s is culling its towel offerings by nearly a fifth.
Retailers ramped up choices in recent decades as the internet created a so-called endless aisle that freed them from the space constraints of physical stores, according to analysts and industry executives. They tried to capitalize on the shift toward personalization with a desire to please everyone and added variety to tempt people to buy items they didn’t need.
Now, with choices overwhelming shoppers and clogging supply chains, some brands are moving in the opposite direction. They are trimming styles and colors in the hope that by eliminating the decision paralysis that grips customers when they are faced with too many options, they can boost sales and reduce end-of-season markdowns.
“The wider the assortment, the more confused the customer is,” Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. Chief Executive Mark Tritton said in an interview. “Customers want something that is digestible. They want retailers to edit down the choices.”
That is true whether the company is selling clothing, financial products, food or just about anything else, according to Sheena Iyengar, a Columbia Business School professor who co-authored a 2000 study titled “When Choice is Demotivating: Can One Desire Too Much of a Good Thing?”