Fashion Merchandising Career – More Than Stacking Shelves

Fashion Merchandising Students

 

There’s more to merchandising than stacking shelves

Merchandising is one of those terms that you may hear a lot if you’re interested in fashion – but surprisingly, few people understand what it actually means. Like analytics or digital, merchandising is another of those fashion disciplines which is not perceived to be as “glamorous” as others, such as design. If you were under the impression that fashion merchandising was dull or monotonous, we’re here today to prove you wrong.

In this blog post, you’ll find out why being a Merchandiser is one of the most exciting and rewarding career paths you can choose in the fashion industry, as well as what’s included in the job description, and how to get started.

What is merchandising?

Merchandising is a broad discipline, and arguably one of the most important in the fashion industry. For this reason, it’s difficult to accurately pin down, as it takes into account so many duties and responsibilities. In the most general sense, the term “merchandising” applies to the business side of fashion. Effectively, it’s where business and fashion meet. Fashion merchandising is responsible for the promotion of the clothing produced by brands and fashion houses to the end customer.

This translates into a number of different responsibilities, from buying and pricing to selling and deciding how to display clothes at their point of sale. It also includes:

  • Developing campaigns and ads
  • Marketing
  • Creating sales strategies
  • Predicting future fashion trends

As a Merchandiser, you are involved with a garment throughout its entire life-cycle – from devising the initial concept to selling it on the shop floor. Therefore, the key function of a merchandiser is to understand both the product they’re selling, and what the customer wants. As you can see, these varied tasks mean that two days are rarely the same for a professional Merchandiser.

Merchandising can also be seen as getting the right products, in the right place, at the right time. While a small portion of this is down to luck, it also takes a tremendous amount of skill and know-how to be able to accurately predict what’s going to sell, when. Those interested in a career in merchandising can choose from a variety of different roles, including Wholesale Buyer, Visual Merchandiser, and Retail Manager.

What does it take to become a Merchandiser?

So, how do you know whether the fashion merchandising route is right for you? The most important thing about candidates who succeed in this area is that they have a diverse range of talents, interests, and skills – from styling savvy to second-to-none organisation. Most fundamentally, a Merchandiser should have a good head for numbers, business savvy and a healthy dash of creativity thrown in, too. Here are some key qualities and attributes that make an individual suitable for this job role.

  • A solid understanding of the fashion landscape and a knack for predicting trend
  • The ability to thrive under pressure
  • A critical and analytical thinker
  • Organisation – of both people and events
  • A love of research – you’ll need a key understanding of a brand or fashion house’s demographic and vision
  • A meticulous eye for detail
  • Numerical and logic skills – you will have a hand in pricing items
  • An interest in fashion and style
  • Commercial understanding and vision
  • Creative and design skills
  • Negotiation and networking

Sound like you? Read on to find out what a typical day as a Head Office Merchandiser looks like.

What does a Head Office Merchandiser do?

In your merchandising career, you’re likely to start as an Allocator or MA (merchandising Assistant). During these roles, you’ll get a taste for the job and learn the ropes when it comes to merchandising for a brand, before moving on to the role of a Head Office Merchandiser.

A Head Office Merchandiser is essentially responsible for the eventual sale of a piece of clothing – meaning they collaborate with functions at every step of the process. A typical day in the life might involve any (or all) of the following tasks:

  • Working with Buyers to help establish which lines will sell, as well as colour palettes and trends to develop based on sales
  • Work alongside Operations to agree on how much stock to produce
  • Helping Visual Merchandisers to devise store layout and window displays using information on popular sellers and lines
  • Monitor stock to establish successful items, selecting the bestsellers and discontinuing poorly performing lines
  • Analysing sales figures
  • Devising strategies to increase profit
  • Working alongside the PR and marketing teams to plan promotions and coverage

Currently, Head Office Merchandisers are in huge demand and as a result progression within the sector is quick.  You can earn up to a massive £65k in this position in a shorter time than you might think.

“I love merchandising,” says Christina Gaughan Senior Merchandiser at Topman. “You get the full experience of the buying cycle from planning and buying the range with your Buyer and Designer to then managing all those orders into the business.”

How do I get there?

If we’ve got your excited about your future career as a Merchandiser, then the next step to take is to understand the qualifications you’ll need to get you there.

Here at the Fashion Retail Academy, we offer courses specifically geared towards budding Merchandisers. Our Level 4 Merchandising for Fashion course takes place over a year and equips you with the skills you’ll need for a merchandising role. To give you an accurate idea of what a future in this discipline looks like, the course covers a mixture of both creative and practical elements. As well as a three-week placement, you’ll take the following modules:

  • Fashion retail merchandising concepts
  • Fashion retail merchandising environment
  • Fashion retail merchandising systems
  • Contextual studies
  • Preparation for progression
  • Individual project

Most importantly, the Level 4 Merchandising for Fashion course is designed to give you a taste of the “real” fashion world. Not only is it taught by industry specialists, but you’ll get to take part in masterclasses from some of the most respected names on the high street, from NET-A-PORTER to New Look.

Courtney Spellacy, who graduated from our Level 4 Merchandising for Fashion course in 2013, tells us what she loved about the course. “While studying at the Academy, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a number of industry experts which prepared me for what life in merchandising would really be like.” Courtney now works at M&S. “With the help of the Academy’s Career Fair, I was able to achieve my goal and secure my first job within the lingerie allocation team at M&S.”

Delal Akdag, who graduated in 2015, is keen to cite to practical skills she learned at the FRA as key to doing well. “The practice the FRA provided me with, such as retail calculations and formulas set up on Excel and Oracle are invaluable. I now work in Arcadia, and practice all of the skills that I acquired at the FRA.”

If you want to try before you commit, why not register for our next Merchandising workshop on 18th Jan? 

Why the FRA?

Studying for your Merchandising qualification at the FRA as opposed to another institution or university has many advantages.

Firstly, our courses can get you closer to your dream job in a third of the time – not to mention a third of the cost – of traditional university degrees.

Our focus is always on equipping you with the wide variety of skills you’ll need to succeed in the fashion industry, rather than just the theoretical.  During your course at the FRA, you’ll have the hands-on experience to give you a competitive advantage during interviews, combining vocational and theoretical learning with a work placement with a high street fashion brand.   You’ll also have those all-important contacts, thanks to our industry placements, master classes, industry projects and career days.

Our facilities also recently got a £2 million upgrade. Based in central London, we now have a new Mac suite, an extended specialist library, and pop-up shops. There’s never been a better time to study with us.

What’s more, we think our results speak for themselves: after graduating, 90% of Level 4 for Merchandising alumni secure employment.

Are you ready to take the first step towards your career in Fashion merchandising? Visit our website to find out more about the Level 4 Merchandising for Fashion course. You can also call 0207 307 2351 or send an email to chloe.blake@fra.ac.uk to chat to a member of our team about your next steps.

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