Merchandisers are responsible for deciding which goods to stock in which shops and how they should be displayed. In large retail companies, merchandisers are likely to be dealing with one range of products. In a smaller retail company they may be responsible for both the buying and merchandising (see Buyer profile).
Merchandisers predict trends and fashions and decide which products are most likely to appeal to customers. They analyse sales information, work out sales targets and plan how to increase profits. They visit suppliers or manufacturers to select goods. This is likely to involve working closely with retail buyers. They negotiate a price, order the goods, agree a delivery date, complete all the necessary paperwork, and keep in touch with suppliers to make sure that the goods arrive on time.
Merchandisers work closely with visual display staff and department managers to decide how goods should be displayed to best attract customers’ attention. This might involve planning and setting up sales promotions and advertising campaigns. In some organisations this is a separate role carried out by a visual merchandiser (see Visual Merchandiser profile).
Merchandisers may also travel to different stores to discuss how well the stock is selling, and make decisions about whether to withdraw, increase or move the stock to another store. Computers play an important part in the work – they are used to handle sales statistics, produce sales projections and present spreadsheets and graphs.
Merchandisers usually work 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday, but often work longer hours to meet deadlines, for instance during special sales promotions or the opening of a new store.
Most of the work is office-based, but some time is spent each week visiting regional stores or suppliers. This may involve spending short periods of time away from home. At senior levels this may include travelling abroad - to find new suppliers, select and buy goods, or sort out problems with manufacturers.
To work as a merchandiser you need:
Merchandisers can work in fashion, homeware, DIY or food retail. Employers include multiple chain stores, supermarkets and department stores.
Opportunities also exist with manufacturers and wholesalers, mail order and internet companies.
Entry to the job is competitive. Merchandisers often work in head offices based in London and the south-east although there are positions available across the country. Vacancies are advertised in local and national press and some recruitment agencies specialise in merchandising.
There are better prospects for promotion within the larger retail companies and opportunities might include specialising in a particular type or brand of goods, taking responsibility for the merchandising of goods in shops across an entire region, or moving on to other areas of retail management. Merchandisers may need to relocate to gain promotion.
There are opportunities to work abroad, particularly for multi-national companies.
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