What is Fashion Merchandising
Contrary to what many might think, fashion merchandising does not only mean selling clothes. In fact, it involves a seamless blend of a strong design sense and acute business acumen.
Fashion merchandising is not a singular role. Think of fashion merchandising as an umbrella instead. Below the umbrella, the merchandiser is an effective communicator, optimiser, planner and vendor-client relationship manager.
Merchandisers need to accurately understand, predict and respond to consumer needs, and make purchasing and budgeting decisions to maximise revenues. In addition, they need to liaise with manufacturers and vendors to maximise every output per dollar spent from their budget.
Job Roles of Fashion Merchandisers
So, what exactly do merchandisers do?
A merchandiser’s job responsibilities are comprehensive and dynamic, but they can be broken down into three main aspects:
Analyse and Forecast Fashion Trends
Merchandisers need to be acutely aware of industry trends, latest designs and global events that might impact their companies’ businesses. To do this, they:
- Conduct market and trend research.
- Read fashion news.
- Attend fashion shows.
- Interpret market and research data to predict influences of trends.
- Liaise with fashion designers to determine existing or emerging trends.
Buying and Managing Merchandise
- Distribute fashion products across stores according to various clientele and their different needs, in order to maximise profits.
- Negotiate with manufacturers and designers to ensure appropriate pricing to make a profit.
- Optimise allocation of budget to distribute stock in stores.
- Determine how to allocate fashion products and stock retail stores according to styles, colours, sizes, and popularity of items with the surrounding customer base.
- Collect and organize industry data by leveraging qualitative and quantitative research tools, examining past product performance in relation to existing and future consumer demand.
- Select textiles and production sources from domestic and international markets.
- Direct manufacturing and production processes.
Marketing and Promotion
- Possess key understanding of local customer demographics across stores and regions.
- Develop marketing campaigns, promotional content and sales strategies.
- Work with visual merchandisers to determine storefront design and interior store layout to maximise sales and customer experience.
Essential Skills for a Successful Fashion Merchandiser
To be an effective fashion merchandiser, one needs to possess these core skill sets:
- Keen Eye for Detail: You need to be able to intuitively spot and identify the newest trends, which garments or clothes have the potential to be a new trend and visualise how a store’s layout might increase or hamper sales.
- Passion for Fashion: Of course, you need to have a deep appreciation for fashion and clothes.
- Ability to Work with Data: You need to be comfortable with handling large sets of data.
- Effective Communicator: As the middleman who liaises with a diverse group of manufacturers, designers, buyers and clients, you need to be a skilful communicator and negotiator.
- Knowledge of the 5Rs of Merchandising: Knowing how to present the Right Product to the Right People at a Right Price at the Right Time in the Right Way.
Examples of Roles in Fashion Merchandising
As with any segment in the industry, there is an organisational hierarchy within fashion merchandising. Roles in fashion merchandising include:
- Assistant merchandisers
- Visual merchandisers
- Marketing representatives
- Marketing specialists
- Merchandising managers
- Merchandising consultants
Often, entry-level merchandising professionals begin as an assistant merchandiser, before rising through the ranks to become senior merchandisers, eventually even landing the roles of head merchandiser or merchandising consultants.
The road to a merchandising career is not singular. People might transition from fashion marketing roles – such as marketing representatives or specialists – into a merchandising role. This is another benefit of a career in merchandising – it requires a broad range of skill sets so it is possible to become one
Take a peek at a case study featuring Roberta Pasciuti, a fashion merchandiser who works at Juicy Couture as senior merchandiser of jewelry, fashion accessories and men’s accessories after graduating from Parsons The New School of Design.
How to Become a Fashion Merchandiser
There are multiple pathways you may choose to pursue to become a fashion merchandiser.
Undergraduate Bachelor’s Degree
The most common pathway is through a 3 or 4 year undergraduate bachelor’s degree. For most companies, a degree is crucial for entry-level positions in fashion merchandising. In order to gain a competitive edge, students might choose to pursue a postgraduate degree.
During the Bachelor’s degree, students will learn a holistic overview of the fashion industry, together with principles of fashion buying and merchandising. For example, at London College of Fashion (LCF), one of the world’s leading fashion schools, undergraduate Fashion Buying and Merchandising students will participate in modules such as:
- Introduction to Fashion Buying
- Principles of Buying and Merchandising
- Product Development
- Research Methods for Fashion Business
- Retail Concept Development and Product Management
Beyond these modules, undergraduates are expected to enhance their fashion knowledge and hone their skills by creating a portfolio. Through this portfolio, students demonstrate to employers their understanding of current fashion trends and demonstrate their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities.
Internships and Hands-on Experience
During the bachelor’s degree, students will be exposed to internship opportunities that place students in actual work environments outside of a classroom setting. In an internship, students will be exposed to the hands-on experience of fashion merchandising, granting them the opportunity to apply their knowledge to a real-world situation.
In addition, an internship allows students the opportunity to make industry contacts and enhance their network, even securing potential referees that are helpful in landing them full-time positions after they graduate.
While it is possible to volunteer for these roles, it is highly unlikely for students to secure full-time positions as fashion merchandisers without possessing a degree, diploma or certification. Fashion merchandising is a technical role in the fashion industry, and deep industry knowledge is essential to succeed in this role.
Now, this leads to the question: what if you are thinking of becoming a fashion merchandiser, but do not wish to commit to a full-time, 4-year undergraduate degree?
At Fashive, we offer you the opportunity to continue your education with our short online courses. They are modular and online, so you need not commit to a full-length, full-time course. You can complete these courses any time, anywhere too!
In addition, they are conducted by industry professionals with decades of relevant industry experience. Our unique courses have been structured in such a manner that you get the opportunity to interact directly with our instructors, so you can receive immediate feedback and resolve any concerns.
Check out our courses for fashion merchandising and fashion essentials below!
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About the Author
Thaddeus Asher Han
Fashion Commentator & Creator
Fashion Journalist at Fashive