Career in fashion merchandising

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James Smith works as a fashion merchandiser for a high-street shop, dealing with approximately 200 stores across the UK and Ireland. He ensures all the stores have the right stock levels of men's knitwear, which involves keeping extensive sales records for each store.

What does your career in fashion merchandising involve?

Each season, the buyer and I make a series of decisions about our new range of knitwear, in terms of colours, styles and prices. Using a specialist software system, I extract previous sales figures to help predict what will sell well in our shops.

Managing the distribution process of garments is one of the major elements of my role. Deciding on the appropriate quantities and styles for each store is based on a number of factors, such as store size and location. Certain lines go to every store, whereas some of the more high fashion orientated lines are selected for specific stores.

Are there any other aspects a career in fashion merchandising?

Gauging what customers want is vital. This involves monitoring sales and liaising with our factories in Hong Kong to ensure supply meets demand. Organising repeat garment orders and the transportation of goods, by air or ship, is also a key responsibility.

What hours do you work?

Our office hours are 9.30am until 5.30pm each day, although I occasionally need to work later during busy periods.

Who do you work with?

I am responsible for managing and developing an allocator, senior allocator and an assistant merchandiser.We also work closely with the buying team and have regular meetings with our designers, and fashion and buying directors.

What are the main challenges?

You have to constantly think on your feet, make quick decisions and always be flexible enough to adapt to customer demands.

What personal qualities and skills do you need for a career in fashion merchandising?

Merchandisers need a combination of analytical and numerical skills to analyse and interpret data. Excellent organisation and time management skills are also essential. A sense of humour helps to keep the job in perspective!

Why did you choose this career in fashion merchandising?

Having always loved fashion, I found a temporary opportunity in a local River Island store after graduating. I really enjoyed the work and my manager encouraged me to consider a career with the company.

What do you enjoy about your career in fashion merchandising?

I love the buzz when I see garments I have put into the stores selling well. The team atmosphere here is great and we also enjoy socialising together outside of work.

James's route to his career in fashion merchandising

  • Degree in Business Decision Analysis.
  • Retail experience with high-street shop.
  • Allocator with high-street shop.
  • Assistant merchandiser with high-street shop.
  • Merchandiser with high-street shop.

James's fashion merchandising tips

  • Retail experience gives you an understanding of the fashion market.
  • Numerical skills are a great advantage.
  • Personal qualities are important in the retail industry and if you combine talent with working hard, promotion is usually possible.

Fashion merchandising related jobs

  • Distribution manager
  • Purchasing manager/administrator
  • Retail buyer
  • Sales assistant
  • Sales manager
  • Store owner/manager

Salary of a fashion merchandiser

  • An assistant merchandiser might earn from £18,000 to £27,000, depending upon experience.
  • Merchandisers are paid between £25,000 and £35,000, rising to £55,000 for senior positions.

Career in fashion merchandising

  • A degree is normally required in a business related subject or another relevant discipline, such as fashion or retail management.
  • Some companies offer graduate training schemes and may accept graduates in any subject, if they can offer strong analytical skills.
  • Numeracy and analytical skills are important and may be tested at interview, although maths A level/H grade is not essential.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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