Merchandiser Job Description

What does the role of merchandiser involve?

Merchandising is about planning and developing a strategy to enable a company to sell a range of products that delivers sales and profit targets. A Merchandiser will work closely with a Buyer to ensure the product that's bought will enable them to achieve the sales plan.

It's often explained as getting the right merchandise, in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities at the right price. Never just say this in response when someone asks you what merchandising is, as this doesn't take into consideration all the planning and strategy that goes on prior to getting the stock into stores. You need to give a more considered answer and this will really pay off at interview.

  • Right Merchandise - Styles, brands, colours, sizes etc
  • Right Place - Which store, depending on their budget and location
  • Right Time - Having merchandise in stores at the right time in the season i.e. ready for Christmas or 'Back to School'
  • Right Quantities - Enough for the stores to make their budgets but not have to markdown stock at the end of the season
  • The Right Price - Those that will attract customers in spite of competition yet generate a reasonable return on investment for the retailer i.e. profit

The objective of the merchandising management team is to get the correct balance between the expectations of the customer and the objectives of the company's financial strategy.

A merchandising role involves the following processes:

  • Analysing past sales figures/trends to anticipate future product needs.
  • Devising a merchandise plan using the above techniques.
  • Relaying the merchandise plan to the buyer who, in turn, can decide on what products, styles, colours etc to purchase and from which suppliers, at what price.
  • Devising a contract for the suppliers including quality control, accuracy and flexibility. This is done throughout the season.
  • Allocating certain amounts of stock, to each outlet, throughout the season. Retailers are now trying to minimise stock holdings and commitment to allow for maximum flexibility.
  • Once the products are all distributed and put on sale, the Merchandiser can monitor stock movement, consider markdowns, inter-branch transfers, promotions or clear outs etc.

The Merchandiser is instrumental in all commercial decisions such as how much money should be spent, how many different lines should be bought and in what quantity, involvement in setting selling prices to regulate profit and decisions on when the stocks should be delivered into the business.

To get this responsibility into perspective it is important to realise that the Merchandiser could be dealing with between £5 million and £50 million turnover across hundreds of shops. Each mistake or miscalculation has a "multiplier effect" resulting in potentially huge losses. A Merchandiser is effectively running an area of the business and will be responsible for a greater turnover than many Managing Directors of small public companies.

Where do I start?
Graduates will start their careers at Allocator or Merchandise (Admin) Assistant level where you learn ground rules of the business and all the merchandising principles. Starting salaries are around the £15,000 mark, with rapid promotion prospects for the best performers.

What will I be doing?
The your main responsibility will be to analyse data for weekly reviews of sales and assist the Merchandiser in following the merchandise plans by allocating stock to the stores. You will also be given responsibility for chasing suppliers for delivery of stock to the right place, on time. As the stock will come from several suppliers, sending out thousands of units at different times this is a complex, logistical role.

Have I got what it takes?

It is essential that you have the following:
- A numerate degree i.e. Maths, Statistics, Finance, Business Studies, Geography, etc.
- Some solid retail experience

The aim of the Merchandiser is to Maximize Profits. You therefore need the following essential attributes.

Analytical Skills
You need to enjoy analysing data and using this to identify trends and potential risks and opportunities. You should be comfortable with basic Statistics.

Communication Skills
You will need excellent communication skills, as you will be dealing with your teams, other teams internally, possibly right up to your MD, with suppliers and stores. You must be confident.

Resilience under Pressure
You need to be strong enough to keep calm when under pressure. This role can require quick thinking to spot trends, evaluate large amounts of data and make sound decisions. Things can change very quickly and there are always deadlines to meet.

Computer Literacy

Is vital as all data, trends and figure analysis will be done using EPOS information, a system most commonly used within merchandising to report on customer spending. Full training is supplied by all retail companies on joining, but each company will have its own unique reporting system.

Commercial Awareness
You need to understand what is going on in the market place, not just yours, but that of your competitors too! Knowing about your customers' needs, and economic trends in general will enable you to make sound and rational decisions.

Where do I go from here?
Opportunities exist within fashion and non-fashion retail companies and in both high street and mail order operations. Merchandising is a generic term, and you may be called a Stock Controller, Distributor or Allocator. However, the role is the same and you will require the same attributes and skills in each.

There are clear paths for progression within all large retail organizations, often with possibilities for rapid promotion prospects for the best performers. You will be able to move up to more senior management level roles and increase your responsibilities.

You could be responsible for sales and budgetary control of a multi-million pound department and managing a team of people all within four years of joining.

If you would like to speak to someone about applying for an merchandising job or for a complete list of our nationwide merchandising jobs, please get in contact.

  1. Example job description for a Merchandiser
  2. Another example job description for a Merchandiser


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