Fashion merchandisers need an eye for what's hot combined with business skills and a thorough knowledge of the fashion industry. Merchandisers work in many different sectors of the industry, including design, manufacturing, retail, advertising and publishing. The possible job titles are also diverse, including merchandiser, buyer, manufacturer’s rep, fashion coordinator, fashion director or store manager. Fashion merchandisers typically develop their talents through degree programs, and then hone them in the workplace.
Most fashion merchandisers have a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising or a related major, such as business or general merchandising, notes the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's Career Center. Programs in fashion merchandising are available in many art schools, colleges and universities, and typically require classes in both fashion and business. A sample curriculum includes subjects such as accounting, marketing, textiles for fashion, survey of fashion, fashion forecasting and retail management.
Some colleges offer specialty tracks within the fashion merchandising major, such as buying or merchandising management.
In addition to a degree, many bachelor's degree programs include internships or field work with manufacturers and retailers. Internships give students the opportunity to put their knowledge to practical use, make industry contacts and be better-equipped for jobs after graduation. For example, students at the University of Delaware receive field training with companies such as Isaac Mizrahi, Fairchild Publications and The Gap.
Part-time jobs in retail fashion outlets are another way for students to gain experience and industry contacts.
After college, new graduates can obtain training positions in companies of all sizes. Sample entry-level job titles include assistant buyer, merchandise manager, fashion coordinator and marketing representative. As an alternative to the college track, some retail stores hire high school graduates and train them in the essential skills for a fashion merchandising career.
Fashion Industry Skills
A thorough knowledge of fashion and its history is essential, including an understanding of textiles and clothing manufacturing. Fashion merchandisers need the ability to do research and predict future trends based on past and present fashions.
Merchandisers must also have an eye for style to understand what customers want to buy. Finally, creativity and a mastery of design principles are essential for planning fashion layouts and displays, as well as devising advertising campaigns.
Merchandisers need competence with computer software such as Excel, Access, Illustrator and Photoshop. They must be able to follow a budget so they can purchase products on advantageous terms and set prices that will turn a profit. They also need to have a comprehensive view of the industry, including wholesale markets, different market segments, customer psychology and merchandise control.
A keen interest in people and a zeal for fashion are key attributes of fashion merchandisers. They must be able communicators with strong skills in negotiation and persuasion to get favorable deals from manufacturers and promote fashions successfully. Problem-solving abilities are essential to devise strategies that sell fashions; management skills and an ability to meet deadlines in a quick-moving environment are also essential.
Note that a merchandiser's job often requires travel to visit manufacturers and attend fashion shows.
- The University of North Carolina at Charlotte: Fashion Merchandising & Buying
- University of Delaware: Major Resource Kits -- Fashion Merchandising
- TheArtCareerProject.com: Fashion Merchandising -- Where Fashion Meets Business
- International Academy of Design & Technology: What Business and Marketing Skills Do You Need in Fashion Merchandising?
- Texas Women's University: Fashion Merchandising
- VIrginia Commonweatlh Univesity: B.A. With a Concentration in Fashion Merchandising
- Photo Credit AdrianaCahova/iStock/Getty Images
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