Merchandisers ensure that products appear in the right store, or on a website, at the appropriate time and in the correct quantities. This involves working closely with the buying teams to accurately forecast trends, plan stock levels and monitor performance.
While the buyer selects the lines, the merchandiser decides how much money should be spent, how many lines should be bought, and in what quantities.
In smaller companies, the same person may be responsible for both buying and merchandising.
Merchandisers play a key role within retail, as profits can be affected by how successfully they undertake their work. Merchandisers set prices to maximise profits and manage the performance of ranges, planning promotions and markdowns as necessary.
They also oversee delivery and distribution of stock and deal with suppliers.
Typical work activities
Duties vary depending on the company and the particular retail sector, but will typically include:
- planning product ranges and preparing sales and stock plans in conjunction with buyers;
- liaising with buyers, analysts, stores, suppliers and distributors;
- maintaining a comprehensive library of appropriate data;
- working closely with visual-display staff and department heads to decide how goods should be displayed to maximise sales;
- producing layout plans for stores, sometimes called 'statements';
- forecasting profits and sales, and optimising the sales volume and profitability of designated product areas;
- planning budgets and presenting sales forecasts and figures for new ranges;
- controlling stock levels based on forecasts for the season;
- using specialist computer software, for example to handle sales statistics, produce sales projections and present spreadsheets and graphs;
- analysing every aspect of bestsellers (for example, the bestselling price points, colours or styles) and ensuring that they reach their full potential;
- maintaining awareness of competitors' performance;
- monitoring slow sellers and taking action to reduce prices or set promotions as necessary;
- gathering information on customers' reactions to products;
- analysing the previous season's sales and reporting on the current season's lines;
- making financial presentations to senior managers;
- accompanying buyers on visits to manufacturers to appreciate production processes;
- meeting with suppliers and managing the distribution of stock, by negotiating cost prices, ordering stock, agreeing timescales and delivery dates and completing the necessary paperwork;
- identifying production and supply difficulties and dealing with any problems or delays as they arise;
- managing, training and supervising junior staff.
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