Merchandise planners work with different areas in their stores to plan what items to order and how to arrange them. They closely follow how items are selling to make recommendations for future buys and help determine the timing of product placement within the stores. Merchandise planners may require a bachelor's degree and most likely need previous retail experience. When interviewing for a merchandise planning position, expect to answer questions about creating strategies for selling more product and about your communication skills.
Teamwork with Buyers
Merchandise planners work closely with buyers to determine what products customers will be most receptive to purchasing. Buyers are up on the latest trends and work with planners to determine if those trendy items are working in their stores. Having a good relationship with the buying team and being able to help them to choose new products, and eliminate old products, is vital for a merchandise planner. You could expect a question about working with buyers to be asked in a similar way as, "What kind of systems do you use to help buyers determine what products should be represented in your stores?"
Merchandise planners work with different departments within their company to forecast what is contributing to sales. They analyze data such as sales, inventory and profit reports. For this reason, merchandise planners need to have a certain level of attention to detail. To uncover this skill, an interviewer might ask you a question like, "When you are reading a sales analysis report, how do you determine what merchandise is working in your store?"
After reviewing reports and figuring out what they reveal, the merchandise planner strategizes how to promote and to sell more product. Merchandise planners take into account the seasonal items and determine merchandise placement based on the buying season and other factors. For example, merchandise planners strategize when it's best to put out holiday items and how the clearance of these items will be handled. An interviewer may ask you a question about your strategic capabilities after researching such data by asking, "How did you help determine the best time to begin displaying holiday items in your previous stores?"
Designing Product Placement
Employees involved in merchandise planning also set the plans by which products are arranged. This process involves determining the best spot on the selling floor to market items to certain demographics. Planners also work with vendors to ensure their product is where it should be located. Nothing is placed haphazardly in a plan-o-gram and planners work with managers from the top down to determine prime location for merchandise. One set of questions to anticipate regarding product placement planning, "What experience do you have designing plan-o-grams and what do you find most challenging about organizing products on the sales floor?"
Based in the Midwest, Gina Scott has been writing professionally since 2008. She has worked in real estate since 2004 and has expertise in pop culture and health-related topics. She has also self-published a book on how to overcome chronic health conditions. Scott holds a Master of Arts in higher-education administration from Ball State University.