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How to be a... Head of merchandising for an online retailer

Sue Willis, Director, buying and merchandising division, Court & Spark consulting.

Merchandising requires a head for figures, business instinct and passion for retail, along with a degree in business or finance and ideally head office retail experience.

Working within a large plc retailer provides the structured training, guidance and experience to fast-track through the ranks, together with the skills and experience of working within different divisions and trading environments.

Heads of merchandising need to think on their feet, use industry experience to make commercial decisions at a strategic level, plus they need experience of managing and leading a team.

The fast pace of online retailing requires a much quicker reaction to trading performance than high street retailers and if, like Surfdome, the product range features snowwear and beachwear, the head of merchandising needs to consider how weather fluctuations might impact on product demand.

Heads of merchandising are responsible for optimising stock levels, offering the right depth and choice of product to meet customer demand, while maintaining profitability by avoiding overstocking.

Salaries range from £80,000 to £100,000.

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