What Is a Merchandising Manager?

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Merchandising managers stock stores with goods that consumers want to buy.
Merchandising managers stock stores with goods that consumers want to buy. (Image: Photos.com/PhotoObjects.net/Getty Images)

Merchandising managers, also known as purchasing managers, buyers or purchasing agents, buy goods for resale in brick-and-mortar or online stores. In a small boutique, they may buy all the stock; in large department stores, they may be in charge of one category, such as jewelry or furniture; and in chains, they may make purchases for several locations in a region.

Job Description

Successful merchandising managers must understand their buyers, why they buy what they buy and how the latest trends can meet customer needs. They must predict the correct number of goods to order. If they buy too few, their stores lose potential profit and alienate frustrated customers. If they buy too much, stores lose profit on unsold goods that may need to be marked down to sell. Most merchandising managers work a standard nine-to-five shift, but may extend those hours when new stock is needed or introduced. They may work individually or manage a staff of category specialists.

Education

The minimum education required for merchandising managers depends on the size of their employers and the scope of their responsibilities. Small shops may be fine with an associate degree in merchandising, while large chains may prefer a bachelor’s degree in business. Being a top-level buyer in a corporation may demand a master’s degree, with a minor related to the product specialty. Regardless of education, purchasing managers need a training period lasting from one to five years to learn their employer’s specific practices. They may begin by working on the sales floor, selling merchandise. They then progress by gaining more responsibility.

Advancement

Continuing education is important for advancement, and can be gotten through professional organizations and advanced college courses. Several certifications are available. The Institute for Supply Management grants the Certified Professional in Supply Management designation. The American Purchasing Society gives Certified Purchasing Professional and Certified Professional Purchasing Manager titles. The Association of Operations Management confers the Certified Supply Chain Professional credential. All this documentation typically requires years of related experience and college courses, followed by written and/or oral testing.

Growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics sees jobs for merchandising managers increasing at a slower-than-average rate. Though a growing population will demand more products to purchase, the use of the Internet to find information, conduct research and place orders has increased the productivity of managers. This lessens the need for additional employees to pick up additional work. Exclusive contracts and long-term contracts have also minimized the contract negotiations that require purchasing managers. Moreover, consolidation in the retail industry has combined the jobs of two or more managers.

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