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How to be a merchandiser

Susie Burt, managing consultant for buying and merchandising at recruitment agency CVUK, tells you how to become a merchandiser.

Where should they start?
To become a merchandiser an analytical degree is ideal, or a fashion buying and merchandising diploma. Internships are also key to get in to a business as a merchandise admin assistant or allocator, where you can then progress up the ladder to merchandiser level.

To become a merchandiser they need to have a solid career path working up from merchandise admin assistant, to assistant merchandiser level, where they then may start to take on some sole responsibility for a department. From here the next step is to junior merchandiser and taking on your own small department. Then once you are able to move on from here, you become merchandiser for a larger area.

What type of training is best?
Some of the larger businesses offer a gradate scheme, which can be a very good way to get into a solid business to start a career. Graduate scheme’s offer learning and development, with some courses rather than just experience.

Where should they train?
Employers will always look at where you started your career as this is where you were trained. Most employers will want you to have had this training in one of the larger blue-chip businesses, where you are trained on the best systems, and used to working at a fast pace with large volumes. They feel if you can do this, then you can do any environment going forward, so the opportunities are wide.

What sort of experience do they need?
Experience wise, some people progress within the same company from the start, while others may want to move on if they can’t progress in their current company or to gain different experience. There is no real right or wrong here. Just as long as you don’t make the mistake of moving too often so employers think you will never settle. If you can gain experience using both advanced, and very manual systems then you will be considered as versatile by many employers, no matter what their systems are like.

What skills do they need?
Excellent mathematical and analytical skills, good communication skills and strong negotiation abilities. Some of the best merchandisers are able to influence buyers, external parties, and finance for example, to get the right amounts of stock and pull in product quickly when needed. A personable and versatile character works very well here. They also require the ability to make decisions based on fact, and not personal opinion. Merchandisers need to have a good attention to detail, a memory for historical numbers, and be reactive, being able to work quickly and prioritise well.

What do employers look for?
Someone from either established businesses, or someone who has worked autonomously and helped build something from scratch. On top of experience, they will want someone who is flexible, and personable who they feel will fit the current team.

What can they expect from the job?
Excellent progression, good money and you will never find it hard to find a job if you are good at what you do. It is a very rewarding job with high potential, and the best merchandisers are an integral part of a business.

What are the salary expectations?
At merchandiser level you are looking at £40,000 to £50,000 depending on the company’s size. Plus, there is usually a package that include bonus, benefits and possibly car allowance.

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