Merchandisers work for retail stores promoting sales and tracking the best selling products and top-performing promotions. As a merchandiser, you can be researching everything from fashion brands to toasters, depending on your employer. In large companies this position can be split into visual merchandising, buying and planning, with each have a different role in the company. What they share is acting as a liaison between the design, marketing and management departments to be sure that the items customers are buying remain available and new items coming in will be of interest.
Merchandisers often hold a bachelor's degree in marketing, fashion or business. While it's possible to advance to this position without a degree, you must have strong analytic skills, communication skills and a good eye for industry trends. Top design and merchandising schools in New York City include the Fashion Institute of Technology, School of Visual Arts, Pratt and Parsons New School. It's common to intern with a retail head office while completing school. Fortunately, many retail stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue have a clearly stated career path to follow.
Merchandisers track, predict, promote and display products at retail locations. The job changes depending on your role and size of the company. Inventory merchandisers are largely desk positions tracking inventory and being sure orders come through on time. Buyers get to choose new products for the store based on predictions of trends and this work can include attending fashion shows or product showrooms. Planners work alongside buyers thinking about long-term seasonal trends and sales margins. Visual merchandisers keep the physical store looking its best and promote sale items by location.
Day to day, merchandisers are thinking about the bottom line of how their products are selling and what will sell well tomorrow. At large companies this can mean a lot of time behind a desk, but in smaller companies it may mean more physical work. Sometimes merchandisers are responsible for product training for the staff to be sure they know how to sell to customers. A visual merchandiser may have early morning and late night hours resetting displays in the store before a large sale.
Salary and Location
Salary ranges for merchandisers are based on the size of your company. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, buyers made a mean income of $58,360 in 2010, and sale managers made up to $98,530. The highest paying jobs with large retail chains will often be located in major consumer centers such as New York or at the company headquarters.
- Fashionista: The Top 20 Fashion Schools in the U.S. -- The Fashionista Ranking
- Saks Fifth Avenue: Career Paths
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Purchasing Managers, Buyers and Purchasing Agents
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Sales Managers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Designer
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Fashion
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