Careers in Retail Merchandising

Merchandisers

  • Who decides which brands and styles of jeans will be sold at the boutique in your neighborhood?
  • Who decides the price the consumer will pay for a new jacket?
  • Who really, really understands customers and what they want?

The people responsible for merchandising retail stores are the General Merchandise Manager, Divisional Merchandise Manager, Buyer, Assistant Buyer, Planner and Allocator.

Merchandising is all of the activities involved in the buying and selling of a retailers’ products.

  • The major responsibilities of the merchandisers are to locate and purchase products, with the preferences of the consumer in mind, and then sell those products at a profit.
  • The job is all about planning, buying, selling, and then planning again.
  • All jobs require numbers sense.

General Merchandise Manager

A General Merchandise Manager (GMM) is the head of the entire merchandising division within a retail store and leads and manages the buyers within all divisions.

  • The GMM sets the overall strategy and merchandise direction of the store.
    • Develops the buying and selling strategies that will maximize business performance and profitability.
    • Includes determining the product lines and merchandise categories to be sold.
    • Ensure that pricing decisions, promotional strategies, and marketing activities support the financial objectives of the merchandising team.
    • Ensure a focused continuity on the selling floor.
    • Work with the buyers to develop competitive merchandise assortments that appeal to customers at the right prices and at the right fashion level.
    • Understand competitors’ strengths, weaknesses and strategies.
    • Understand customers’ demographics, wants and needs.

Job Qualifications

Education

  • A bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising, retailing or business

Experience

  • 10-20 years of buying experience as well as experience throughout a retail organization
  • Divisional Merchandise Manager position

Personal Characteristics

  • Strong leadership, communication and organizational skills
  • Flexibility, analytical problem solver
  • Effective negotiation skills

Divisional Merchandise Manager

A Divisional Merchandise Manager (DMM) leads and manages the buyers that buy for a related group of products within the merchandising division.

Responsibilities

  • Setting the overall strategy and merchandise direction for the division
  • Keeping profits up and losses to a minimum by maximizing sales
  • Studying the industry by knowing the competition, trends, markets and fashion directors
  • Coordinating teamwork among all the group
  • Delegating responsibilities to the buyers, assistant buyers, planners and allocators
  • Developing the buying staff
  • Overseeing and collaborating with the buyers on future purchases, marketing and promotional efforts, merchandise expenditures and inventory management

Job Qualifications

Education

  • A bachelor’s degree in merchandising or retailing

Experience

  • 10 years of buying experience as well as experience throughout a retail organization

Personal Characteristics

  • Strong leadership, communication, negotiation and organizational skills
  • The ability to work well with all levels of management
  • Analytical thinker and effective problem solver

Buyer

A Buyer is responsible for all of the product purchases for a particular department of a company.

  • Work within a budget
  • Monitor fashion trends and determine which items their customers will buy at a profit
  • Locate suppliers and negotiate prices, shipping and discounts
  • Use fashion sense, knowledge of trends, and understanding of target customers to create desirable merchandise assortments for the store

Job Qualifications

Education

  • A bachelor’s degree in merchandising or retailing

Experience

  • Assistant buyer
  • 2-4 years retail sales experience

Personal Characteristics

  • Good analytical, mathematical and computer skills particularly in budgeting, planning and inventory management
  • Good negotiation, communication and organizational skills
  • Good understanding of the overall industry

Assistant Buyer

An Assistant Buyer works directly for the buyer of a department.

  • Primarily work with the six-month merchandising plan, open-to-buy and inventory
  • Often work hands-on with the merchandise assortment, transferring items from one retail location to another as needed and returning goods to vendors
  • Place special orders

Job Qualifications

Education

  • A bachelor’s degree in merchandising or retailing

Experience

  • 2-4 years retail or sales experience
  • In some companies, completion of an executive training program

Personal Characteristics

  • Strong analytical, mathematical, computer and organizational skills
  • Self-directed and motivated with attention to detail and the ability to work well under pressure

Planner

A Planner works in collaboration with a buyer to develop sales forecasts, inventory plans and spending budgets for merchandising.

  • Goal is to minimize markdowns and achieve the retailer’s sales and profit objectives
  • Using past sales data and sales projections, planners construct merchandise assortments
  • Can include dollars, sizes, colors, styles and prices
  • Communicates with stores about merchandise performance and sales plans

Job Qualifications

Education

  • A bachelor’s degree in merchandising, retailing, accounting or finance

Experience

  • 2–4 years of retail sales

Personal Characteristics

  • Detail oriented with strong analytical skills
  • Quick, accurate and able to work with advanced spreadsheet applications
  • Effective interpersonal and communication skills

Allocator

An Allocator is responsible for planning and managing merchandise deliveries received from vendors, as ordered by buyers, to the retail locations.

Responsibilities

  • Arranging for transportation of merchandise to the retail outlet locations
  • Keeping items in stock in the stores and the warehouse
  • Analyze the needs of each individual store

Job Qualifications

Education

  • A bachelor’s degree in merchandising or retailing

Experience

  • 2–4 years of retail sales

Personal Characteristics

  • Good problem-solving and communication skills
  • Detail and deadline orientation
  • The ability to coordinate scheduling
  • Strong math skills