Merchandising is a wide field incorporating everything from clothing, toys and food products to music and often extending well beyond the producer's original core business.
One witness to this constantly evolving industry is Dennis Ng, sales and operations manager for D&G Industrial Co Ltd and D&G Button Products Ltd.
Mr Ng entered button merchandising from the banking-administration field after a friend introduced him to the industry where he has stayed for more than 15 years.
He began as a sales executive but gradually developed into a merchandiser, he explains, stating, "I still have to follow up orders, but I no longer meet customers every day like when I was a salesperson."
Noting that the industry has evolved over the years, he adds, "We used to deal with local factories, but as trends changed, suppliers like us started dealing directly with buyers and other business development projects."
For Mr Ng, constant learning is the key for adapting to change. "I keep learning through my jobs," he says.
Before joining D&G, Mr Ng worked at three different merchandising companies. In his current role, he oversees sales and operations. "In sales, I am responsible for developing new accounts in the global market, while my staff look after the existing accounts. As a troubleshooter, I help them with advice and solutions.
"Look at different matters with a wider perspective"
"When it comes to operations, I'm involved all aspects of the workflow during our daily production cycle, including order status, troubleshooting and special requests such as early deliveries. I also adopt a mediotorial role at times if communictation between parties becomes strained."
Mr Ng's typical workday includes following up sales calls, setting sales strategies, conducting sales analyses and forecast, checking e-mails to alert himself to any potential problems and communicating with the company's factory in Dongguan. "I have regular monthly quality meetings with the factory and sometimes take clients out there for site visits," he adds.
Merchandising companies depend on a steady flow of capital and Mr Ng is confident that his career prospects are good. He says, "I hope to strengthen my management capabilities and production knowledge in accordance with my position in the company. Broadening my vision will enable me to further develop my career."
While the company is structured into different sales teams, the sales director is responsible for managing all the teams and their operations and this is the position that Mr Ng ultimately aspires to.
Communication a key
Mr Ng believes that personality is an important key to being a successful and devoted merchandiser. "To make it work, you need a pleasant personality, as you deal with different people and issues day in, day out. Flexibility and a positive mindset are also the keys to sucess. Other necessary skills include fluency in English, Cantonese and Mandarin," he says.
Positive and forward-looking employees are crucial for a well-functioning operation, Mr Ng stresses, saying that when technical constraints hinder the execution of clients' creative requirements, it is important to be flexible to come up with a viable alternative. "Often, this even allows us to make breakthroughs and set new trends," he points out.
Sales executives should have at least a Form Seven qualification, says Mr Ng. Fresh graduates and applicants with little work experience but an ability to tackle problems will also be considered. "We provide extensive on-the-job training," he adds.
Constantly learning about new things has been the most rewarding aspect of Mr Ng's career so far. "New fashion trends and information provided by our clients keep us abreast of the latest developments around the world and help inspire our new collections," he states. "Personally speaking, the ever-changing nature of my job has taught me to look at different matters with a wider perspective."