The ABCs of Fashion Merchandising

February 24, 2005

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Fashion merchandising revolves around the business side of fashion and offers incredible opportunities for students who love fashion and want to make a career of buying, product development, management, or fashion marketing. They're demanding jobs, but incredibly rewarding too.


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A merchandiser is involved in every stage of the process from design to sales. They advise the designer on market trends, collect specifications from the buyers, get the samples approved and also negotiate the price. They are even responsible for ensuring that consignments are delivered to the customers in time. Fashion merchandisers usually have bottom-line responsibility for projects or departments at all levels of their careers.

The Life of a Merchandiser

Most work in fashion merchandising involves juggling the past, present, and future. Merchandisers spend a great deal evaluating sales from previous time periods in order to plan and make decisions for future sales. Merchandising isn't just shopping; fashion merchandisers have to analyze and create a complex business plan aimed at specific customers. This requires an ability to forecast trends and then translate them into a profitable business plan for the company.

Anytime a decision is made to create a fashion product and offer it to the consumer, fashion merchandising is involved, including product development, buying, marketing, or management of the product. Even if it's just deciding which mannequin should face which direction -- odds are good that someone involved with fashion merchandising has the final "OK".

Breaking Into The Field

As with most fashion jobs, the key is to start with disciplined study to direct your talent into a successful career. As competition for fashion jobs is high, you'll want to be as prepared as possible, which may mean considering campus and online degree programs in fashion. There are also many opportunities -- whether you're in school or not -- for internships and these should be considered vital for advancing your career. Indeed, any work with experienced industry connections -- be it in a design house or in retail -- provides a key stepping stone for students to meet important industry personnel who have open positions and knowledge to share.

Prospects for the Future

As with many industries and professions, the Internet has brought a number of changes in the world of fashion merchandising. New planning and distribution organizations have been created via networking to assist the buyers and merchandise managers to manage the business more profitably. As e-commerce grows and users become more comfortable shopping online, fashion merchandisers will spend more time with this nascent medium -- trying to identify target customers and creating a merchandising strategy uniquely suited to them in order to create a differentiation among brands and retail operations.

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