The importance of data has increased over the last decade, and is starting to take the guess work out of retail merchandising. Companies are relying more on numbers than merchant executive instincts. Chief merchants, usually seen as potential CEO successors, are now expected to master left-brain skills in addition to right-brain creativity. For example, Wal-Mart started using google analytics to make decisions on food stock. J.C. Penney is also focusing more on analytics for replenishing merchandise. The latter company is currently looking for a new chief merchant.
Although big data can help make important decisions when it comes to restocking stores, some oppose the idea because it can potentially inhibit intuition. The fear is that when data takes over the retail industry, stores will start to look uniform due to a loss of creativity and instinct. Compared to the baby boomers, who tend to rely more on their gut, millennials, entering the workforce currently, tend to gravitate towards data for decision making. As big data is starting to make its way into retail decision making, the debate continues as to whether or not the shift is beneficial.