The entry point can vary from company to company and will depend on relevant experience and qualifications. Usually, new entrants begin as allocators, distributors or merchandise administrative assistants (MAA).
There is a clear career development path in merchandising. Companies often have a competency development programme in place, laying out a set of competencies that have to be achieved in order to qualify for the next level and gain promotion. The next level after working as an MAA is assistant merchandiser (although in some companies, there is an additional step in between these two roles as senior allocator/senior distributor). It is common to remain at assistant level for a couple of years before promotion to merchandiser and then to senior merchandiser. For those interested in management, it is possible to work up to merchandise manager, then on to head of merchandising and then merchandising director. These roles will be head-office based.
Career development can be rapid, but speed of progression is largely dependent upon individual performance. It is possible to have responsibility for a large budget and a team of people within five years, and it’s common to have reached senior merchandiser level within eight years.
It is usual for a merchandiser to specialise in a certain product area, such as homeware, food or fashion, but skills and experience are transferable between products. It is also possible to move sideways into a business analyst role. However, moving between career areas within a company (from merchandising to buying, for example) is not always very easy.
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