Walking into your favorite store, you spy a pair of jeans you just have to have. Upon further inspection, you decide you cannot live without the top, shoes, purse and accessories to match. Along with your lack of willpower, you have a merchandise planner to thank for your new purchases. Merchandise planners decide what items a store will carry based on current styles, trends and demand. While it may seem like a woman’s dream job, men also serve as merchandise planners. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2012, the gender of merchandise planners, also called buyers, is split pretty evenly, with women making up 55 percent.
Education and Training
The educational requirements for merchandise planners vary depending on the employer. Most employers hire planners with just a high school diploma and provide on-the-job training. Some employers want more business experience, and prefer candidates with an associate or bachelor’s degree in business, economics or a related business field, like purchasing, acquisitions or contracts management. On-the-job training teaches the basics of the job, including monitoring inventory, negotiating with wholesalers and sellers, and measuring supply and demand.
Along with a strong background in business, a merchandise planner should have negotiation skills and be able to make decisions quickly and on deadlines. Especially when buying clothes, shoes and accessories, the planner must have an eye for what’s current and trendy, and be able to mix those items in with classic, timeless pieces that always sell. Merchandise planners must have excellent analytical and math skills to decipher a good deal and manage that company’s purchasing budget. Other skills include excellent written and oral communication and knowledge of basic computer programs.
As the title suggests, a merchandise planner’s main job duty is to create a purchasing strategy for a retail company. Merchandise planners work for a wide variety of businesses that sell merchandise, including clothing, shoes, accessories, furniture, home décor, electronics and more. Along with buying merchandise, planners negotiate prices with the suppliers, meet with new suppliers to evaluate new items and oversee delivery and fulfillment of buying contracts. The planner often attends trade shows and conferences to see the latest and greatest merchandise, as well as network with suppliers and fellow planners.
Most planners work full-time and nearly 20 percent put in more than 40 hours a week, according to the BLS. Most of the day for a planner is spent in an office setting, with occasional trips outside the office to visit clients, suppliers and wholesalers.
Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." You'll also find her work on websites like Airbnb, Chron.com, and USAToday.com. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.