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Do you tend to keep an eye on the latest fashion trends? Are you inspired by the likes of Marica Gigante and Nuno Rosa? If yes, fashion merchandising sounds like a career path for you. Fashion merchandising involves the meticulous planning and promotion of sales for a product by making it available at the right time in the required quantity. A fashion merchandiser selects product lines, conceptualises attractive storefronts and devises strategies for promoting fashion brands. The end goal of fashion merchandising is to increase profitability and positively impact the bottom line of the business. Broadly, fashion merchandising encompasses the following responsibilities:
The history of fashion merchandising is entwined with that of the fashion industry, which originated in Paris, France, in the 19th century. The early 20th century witnessed the rise of various fashion magazines and the fashion industry making its inroads into Western Europe. This generated a demand for fashion merchandise. By the 1950s, it was evident that the sector required skilled personnel to meet the demand for fashion products. This led to the rise of several technical institutions offering curricula encompassing fashion merchandising as one of the components. However, it was not until the 21st century that fashion merchandising emerged as an independent discipline and practice, underscoring the need for a specific skill set to boost sales in the target market.
The role of a fashion merchandiser is critical to enhancing the customer experience and boosting sales. It is a multifaceted career involving assortment planning, inventory management, determining pricing and channel mix strategies, visual merchandising, e-commerce and omnichannel integration, forecasting and risk management and much more. An effective merchandising strategy establishes a distinct brand identity for the fashion brand, optimises inventory and cultivates loyal customers.
A bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising, fashion design, fashion business management, or strategic design management is a gateway to a successful career in the discipline. The minimum eligibility for a bachelor's degree is 10+2 in any discipline with an aggregate of 50% marks. Most institutions require aspirants to qualify for an entrance test where they are judged on basic design skills, logical reasoning and knowledge of design trends. While several institutions offer a fashion merchandising degree, one must choose the educational institute wisely based on various factors, such as location, budget, quality of infrastructure, updated curriculum, qualification levels of faculty, placement options.
Similarly, the role of an updated and industry-oriented curriculum in shaping fashion merchandising careers is critical. Not only does it equip aspirants with sound fundamentals of the discipline, but it also lends an insight into the workings of the fashion industry. Moreover, the programme in fashion merchandising plays a vital role in honing skillsets such as design proficiency, attention to detail, stakeholder management, and decision-making, which are essential for fashion merchandising jobs.
An effective curriculum should encompass assignments, case studies, masterclasses, guest lectures, access to trade shows and industry events, projects, and practice school as mandatory components.
Various career paths in fashion merchandising are discussed below.
Planning merchandiser: The role of a planning merchandiser involves working with sourcing merchandisers for the timely delivery of inputs. They also work with the production team to determine the production process, factoring in the absenteeism of operators and exigencies in manufacturing processes. Their role also involves coordination with packaging and distribution departments to ensure the timely delivery of the fashion merchandise.
Visual merchandiser: A visual merchandiser oversees the floor layouts, 3D product displays and signage of a fashion retail store. Their role involves interfacing with various stakeholders, including the manufacturer and the store manager, to boost sales.
Sampling Merchandiser: The responsibility of the sampling merchandiser is to ensure that fashion merchandise samples are sent to buyers on time to meet their requirements. They also oversee the quality of these samples.
Buying House Merchandiser: A buying house merchandiser is entrusted with fulfilling the terms and conditions of the export order. Their role involves interacting with customers to understand their preferences and requirements, understanding the target market, managing logistics and documentation.
Fashion Marketing Manager: Fashion marketing is among the sought-after fashion merchandising careers due to the diversity of the role and attractive salary. The role of the fashion marketing manager involves devising marketing strategies by researching market trends, analysing the demography of the target market, and determining channel mix, purchase history and behaviour of customers. They use data to make informed decisions regarding the allocation of budget for various marketing activities.
Fashion Retail Store Manager: A fashion retail store manager oversees the day-to-day operations of the fashion store, including managing stock, mentoring and motivating sales teams, addressing customer grievances and hiring and training new staff. It is a subset of fashion business management jobs.
Fashion Buyer: Fashion buying involves devising buying plans, negotiating with vendors on pricing and delivery timelines and placing orders for the fashion merchandise. His responsibilities include fashion retailing, analysing fashion trends, selecting the best fashion merchandise, managing relations between manufacturers and retailers, and budget operations.
A degree in fashion merchandising is just a starting point for a career. Success in fashion merchandising jobs depends on the skills of professionals. A fashion merchandiser must have a keen eye on fashion trends, sound analytical skills, and an in-depth understanding of consumer behaviour. Excellent interpersonal, negotiation, and organisational skills go a long way in aiding strategic product planning and seamless retail execution. The evolving job landscape has reaffirmed the significance of soft skills such as problem-solving, teamwork, and design thinking in managing various stakeholders. Along with these skills, a fashion merchandiser should keep himself or herself up-to-date with fashion trends, demography, requirements, and the purchase behaviour of customers.
The fashion merchandising industry is rapidly changing with the influx of emerging tools and technologies, the proliferation of new trends, and thrust from the government amid changing tastes and preferences of customers. Omnichannel integration, digital advertising, sustainable fashion, and social commerce have redefined fashion merchandising jobs, necessitating periodic upgradation of skill sets. Brands are increasingly investing in curated experiences. Among them is Nike's House of Innovation, which offers an array of digital experiences and in-store displays by L’Occitane. Technology is proving to be a game-changer for the fashion industry. For instance, artificial intelligence can assess consumer behaviour using predictive analytics and create actionable insights to improve the customer experience. Augmented reality has made possible virtual fashion shows, product launches, virtual try-ons, and fittings. Similarly, the metaverse has lent an altogether new dimension to fashion merchandising.
While honing skills and keeping abreast of the latest trends and technologies are crucial, the role of a strong portfolio cannot be underestimated. A strong portfolio showcasing aspirants' skillset, projects, and industry exposure is a differentiator in the fashion merchandising industry. Creating a solid resume showcasing achievements, skill sets, and knowledge of tools is a great start to building a strong portfolio. To maintain a competitive edge, one must also learn tools and technologies such as Adobe Creative Suite, Procreate and Sketchbook. Showcasing portfolios on social media platforms such as Behance, LinkedIn and YouTube helps graduates land entry-level jobs quickly.
Strong networking skills are vital for a successful fashion merchandising career. It helps keep professionals abreast of the latest trends and developments in the industry. Attending industry events such as webinars, masterclasses, and fashion runways lends the requisite exposure and boosts the portfolio of aspiring fashion merchandisers. Maintaining a strong connection with peers may be a passport to better career prospects.
Today, customers are more discerning than ever. Hence, one wrong step can make or break the fashion brand's reputation. Determining the right channel mix tailored to various segments of the target audience, determining and maximising the return on investment from marketing initiatives, and dealing with high input costs are formidable challenges faced by fashion merchandisers. Moreover, increasing sustainability concerns have placed an additional responsibility on these professionals to explore novel ways of recycling fashion waste. Developing soft skills such as people management, data-driven decision-making, and interpersonal skills can help tackle such challenges.
At this juncture, professional connections also come in handy for soliciting advice and deliberating on innovative ways to tackle challenges.
Fashion merchandising is a broad discipline and practice encompassing various job profiles. Upon completion of graduation, aspirants must zero in on a suitable career path based on their aptitude, interests, and prospects. It is recommended to start career planning right after graduation to increase the chances of landing the first job after completing the fashion merchandising degree. Gaining practical experience through projects and internships not only boosts a portfolio but also helps aspirants explore a suitable career choice based on their experience. While landing the first job easily is a dream for many, a successful career ahead is a long road, demanding years of dedication and perseverance. The entry-level salary in fashion merchandising roles ranges from 3 lakhs to 6 lakhs (Source: Ambition Box); it is not a constraint for deserving professionals and increases with experience and value addition to the portfolio.
Fashion merchandising is a building block for the fashion retail industry. Improving internet access, the emergence of new technologies, and customer-centricity have fueled the demand for fashion merchandisers. Moreover, stiff competition in the fashion retail industry has shifted the focus towards robust branding and marketing as differentiators to boost sales. The retail sector is the largest employer of fashion merchandising professionals. These professionals are sought-after in public relations and communication, marketing, and sales careers. With fashion retail stores emerging as experiential zones and brands thriving on customer centricity, the fashion merchandising industry promises to be a galore of opportunities. So, if you follow fashion and have a knack for creativity, fashion merchandising is the right career choice for you.
Additional Resources in Fashion Merchandising
Loved reading this article? Author Ashita Kulshreshtha has written in-depth articles about identifying the best of fashion design colleges. She also talks about the 5 Rs of Fashion Merchandising in another article.
If you are considering luxury brand management as a career choice? Read this piece to understand more about the field. Have a knack for fashion business management? This article on fashion business management careers may be apt for you.
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