Careers Guide for jobs

Retail Merchandising Career Advice

If you are wondering how to become a retail merchandiser, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers within sales and retail, as well as job prospects in the UK.

The Job Description
Retail merchandisers make sure that goods are available in the right stores, at the right time and at the right price. They work closely with buyers to forecast trends, plan stock levels and monitor how well goods are selling. Buyers select the product ranges, while merchandisers aim to maximise profits by deciding which lines will sell, how much to spend on stock, how much to buy and what price to sell at.

As a merchandiser, you work will include:

planning the range of products to be sold, with the buying team
analysing sales figures and trends
forecasting future sales and profits, using computer programmes
setting prices and sales targets
planning budgets and presenting sales forecasts to managers
negotiating prices with suppliers, placing orders and making sure that goods arrive on time
controlling stock levels, moving stock and making sure that best-selling products are always available
promoting or reducing the prices of slower-selling lines
visiting suppliers and stores to discuss how products are selling.
You would usually specialise in a particular type of product, such as fashion, food or homewares.

In large retail chains you may be known as a product manager and deal only with one or two product lines, while in smaller companies you may be responsible for both buying and merchandising.

Person Specification
The key personal attributes of good retail merchandisers include:

good business sense and an understanding of what customers want
excellent organisational and planning skills
good analytical and mathematical skills
decision making ability
good communication and negotiation skills
creative flair
the ability to work well in a team
the ability to work under pressure
good computer skills, especially in using spreadsheets.

How to become a merchandiser
To become a retail merchandiser, you will often need a degree or BTEC HND in a business or maths-based subject such as:

fashion buying and merchandising
marketing
retail management
business and management
maths and statistics
economics.
Please check with colleges or universities for exact entry requirements.

Some employers may consider you with other degree subjects, or with A levels or similar qualifications, as long as you have good analytical and business skills and the right personal qualities. Whatever your qualifications, you should ideally have some experience of working in retail.

Your first job in merchandising will usually be as an allocator, distributor or merchandising administrator. You will then work your way up to assistant merchandiser and merchandiser as you gain experience.

You may be able to get into the retail industry through an Apprenticeship scheme. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.

Training and Development
Your training will usually combine on-the-job learning with some formal in-house courses. If you work for one of the large retail companies, you may be trained in merchandising as part of a structured graduate management training scheme.

Your training may include the chance to work towards NVQs at levels 2 to 5 in Supply Chain Management (previously known as Procurement).

Alternatively, as an allocator or trainee merchandiser, your training may include the distance learning course in buying and merchandising from the British Shops and Stores Association.

You may also be able to study for professional qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) or the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM). Your employer may give you the opportunity to work towards these, or you could choose to study independently at a local college or by distance learning.

The Pay (a rough guide)
Starting salaries are around £15,000 to £18,000 a year.
With experience this can rise to £20,000 to £40,000 a year.
Top salaries in large retail companies can reach £50,000 a year or more.

Job Prospects
You could work all kinds of retailers (including internet-based), wholesalers and manufacturers. Most jobs are in head offices, which are often based in London and the south east of England.

Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, employers’ own websites, specialist recruitment agencies and retail trade magazines.

Larger companies usually have a clear promotion structure. With experience, you could become a senior merchandiser, then merchandising manager or director. Alternatively, you could become a retail business analyst or a freelance retail consultant.

Industry websites and organisations for retail and sales:
The Retail A to Z
This site at www.theretailatoz.com has articles on issues such as online training for retail staff. Internationl retailers and businesses providing products and services for the industry and invited to contribute articles and showcase their solutions.

BIRA
Middleton House
2 Main Road
Middleton Cheney
Banbury
Oxfordshire
OX17 2TN
Tel: 01295 712277
Formerly known as the British Shops and Stores Association (BSSA), BIRA at www.bira.co.uk is an organisation for for independent retailers. It provides support, business solutions and profressional representation for over 7,000 members in the UK.