What is a Merchandiser? Skills, Qualifications and Types of Job Roles
Updated 10 September 2023
Merchandising is an evergreen career field that can provide a good amount of job opportunities at all times. Depending on your experience and track record, you can earn attractive salaries in this line of work. To make a successful career in merchandising, you need some basic skills and qualifications. In this article, we look at what a merchandiser is, what they do, how to become one and some important skills and qualifications required for the job.
What is a merchandiser?
Merchandisers are retail inventory professionals who ensure that stores and websites have the right volume of products to provide a consistent retail experience. They ensure timely supply of products in the right amounts and work with buyers to monitor, plan and forecast stock levels. Visual merchandisers are specialists who collaborate with retail store staff to improve retail experience and sales. They do this by manipulating display mechanisms to maximise the visibility and accessibility of products.
What does a merchandiser do?
Some of the typical duties of merchandisers are as follows:
Monitoring warehouse inventory and submitting comprehensive reports
Communicating customer problems to the company and addressing customer issues
Identifying feasible price points based on market and consumer surveys
Preparing budgets and demand/supply forecasts
Assisting in the creation of an organized warehouse environment to enable product accessibility
Stocking shelves and displays on the sales floor, where additional inventory management assistance is required
Working to create attractive sales floor displays that prominently feature relevant products and sales
Skills required for a merchandiser
Some of the most important skills and qualities for a merchandiser to develop are:
A merchandiser's main responsibility is to organize products. Most of the time, this means organizing products on sales displays, but merchandisers also work with inventory management teams to organize the warehouses they house their products in.
Part of a merchandiser's role is to create and assemble visually distinct and compelling sales displays for products on a store's sales floor. A creative merchandiser will be able to more easily develop unique product displays that succeed in driving sales to a product.
Merchandisers interact with a wide variety of people including manufacturers, business owners, suppliers, stores and retail staff. Effective communication is an important part of their job. As a merchandiser, you should be good at written and verbal communication, and comfortable with negotiations.
A merchandiser with mathematics skills will likely be more effective when logging inventory changes and the warehouse's storage capacity. Merchandisers have to make precise calculations to ensure smooth supply chain operations.
The merchandiser will be required to log all updates to the warehouse inventory into inventory management software packages, meaning that the merchandiser will spend portions of their shift working at a computer. A computer-literate merchandiser can effectively handle this portion of their responsibilities.
Merchandisers spend much of their shifts moving product between locations and arranging product in a warehouse or on a sales floor. Merchandisers must have good physical stamina for a job that keeps them on their feet at all times.
Market and product knowledge
Merchandisers often act as a link between the manufacturer and the retailer. They should have a good knowledge of the brands they represent, the products they supply and the market they cater to. As a merchandiser, you may have to clarify a lot of doubts for retailers and store owners with regard t the products they are purchasing. Similarly, they must also be able to inform manufacturers about market scenarios and good retail practices.
Time management skills
As a merchandiser, you will be working on a variety of tasks on any given day. You may have to balance your responsibilities and handle multiple clients without having to compromise on your personal time. Good time management skills are necessary to maintain work-life balance in this line of work.
Qualifications for becoming a merchandiser
You can follow these general steps to become a merchandiser:
1. Complete higher secondary education.
Becoming a merchandiser requires at least a higher secondary school education. Most professional courses for merchandising require candidates to have at least 50% aggregate marks in relevant board exams.
2. Pursue a professional course.
These are some courses you can pursue to become a merchandiser:
Diploma in Visual Merchandising: A diploma course takes between 3 months and a year to complete. It will focus on key aspects like retail, branding and advertising. Most colleges will conduct admissions based on merit, but institutions like NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology) conduct their own entrance examinations.
B.Des in Fashion and Merchandising: A bachelors course in design, focusing on fashion and merchandising (B.Des Fashion and Merchandising) takes 4 years to complete. Undergraduate admissions are usually given on the basis of a candidate's performance in AIEED (All India Entrance Examination for Design), SEED (Symbiosis Entrance Exam for Design), DAT (Design Aptitude Test), Pearl Academy Entrance Test and NIFT Entrance Examination.
Diploma in Fashion Merchandising: A post-graduate diploma in fashion merchandising (commonly referred to as PGD-FM) can be completed in 1-2 years. Although you can pursue this course with any bachelor's degree, your chances of admission are better if you have an economics or commerce background.
Although employers will prefer candidates who have completed the courses mentioned above, you are eligible to become a merchandiser if you have a degree in business management, business administration, economics or supply chain management.
3. Earn a merchandising certificate.
In addition to professional courses, you can also complete certificate courses and online courses from competent institutes to improve your opportunities. Certifications can help you establish yourself as a specialist in visual or retail merchandising.
4. Spend time working in retail.
Take some time to work as a stocker, cashier or another entry-level position in the retail industry. Most positions for merchandisers require at least two years of prior professional experience working in retail.
Job roles in merchandising
The field of merchandising offers several job roles for candidates to work in. Here are some of the popular ones:
Visual Merchandiser: Visual merchandisers design and create store layouts and product displays to increase visibility and grab the attention of consumers.
Merchandiser: Merchandisers work with suppliers and manufacturers to get their products out to stores and sales floors. They may also actively promote products and services to improve their sales over time.
Retail Merchandiser: Retail merchandisers largely work with buyers like e-commerce platforms, supermarkets and independent stores. They provide informed advice regarding procurement of goods and services to improve profits for buyers.
Fashion Merchandiser: Fashion merchandisers are responsible for forecasting trends and suggesting price points to manufacturers and retailers. They may specialise in domains like footwear, eyewear, inner wear or other fashion accessories like watches and jewellery.
Retail Buyer: Retail buyers handle procurement processes for retail stores. They select goods and identify the exact quantities to be purchased. They also plan and schedule these purchases on behalf of retailers.
These are some of the common settings for merchandisers to work in:
Fashion accessory lines
Independent retail establishments
Museums and galleries
What is an example of a merchandiser?
Consider a merchandiser in the apparel industry, working for a particular brand which makes clothing for children. The merchandiser is in charge of coordinating with the design team and purchasing raw materials in bulk at the best prices. This includes fabric, thread, dyes, buttons and other important materials for production of garments. After the procurement stage, the merchandiser will work with the production team to analyse the volume of products made in a given timeline. They may work with the production team to optimise processes to meet certain market demands and requirements.
Once the garments are produced, the merchandiser will coordinate with warehouse, packaging and distribution teams to understand the capacity and scale of their logistics operations. This information is communicated to retailers and buyers, who may place orders according to the suggestions of the merchandiser. After orders are placed, it is the merchandiser's duty to ensure that the products reach the stores on time, according to an agreed upon schedule of procurement. They will also follow up with retailers to facilitate good product placement and attractive store displays to improve sales for their products.
How much does a merchandiser make?
The pay scale of merchandisers will depend on the scale of their operations and their experience in the industry. The average base salary for a merchandiser is ₹3,03,355 per year.
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