The nuts and bolts of merchandising

Job description

A merchandiser has a great deal of autonomy over his or her projects and must be ready to make numerous decisions every single day. The main job responsibilities include overseeing every stage of production, from research and development of the original concept to ensuring that products arrive at the appropriate sales outlet on time and in the right quantities.

In particular, merchandisers are responsible for managing the supply chain. They need to watch out for possible errors in design, choice of materials, costing or quality. If necessary, they must offer solutions or alternatives, and be able to take appropriate action when delivery dates or the size of orders are changed. As a result, it's important to know everything there is to know about the supply chain, in order to understand client needs and make things happen as swiftly, easily and cost effectively as possible.

Generally, merchandisers have to work alongside retail buyers to develop innovative and exciting products. Therefore, the profession requires a wealth of knowledge about the production capacity of factories, as well as the manufacturing process. Merchandisers must be able to translate a buyer's ideas into an actual product and then source that at an agreed price and according to a fixed production schedule.

The day-to-day work of a merchandiser includes:

  • helping buyers develop and design products
  • finding and building relationships with the right vendors
  • assessing budgets
  • preparing quotations
  • checking progress with factories
  • quality control
  • importing raw materials from suppliers
  • crisis management and problem solving
  • overseeing concurrent projects

Specific skills

To succeed as a merchandiser, the following skills and characteristics are useful:

  • communication skills
  • ability to work closely with people from different backgrounds and cultures
  • availability for frequent travel
  • ability to withstand pressure
  • a passion for the job
  • aggression
  • attention to detail
  • an inquisitive mind
  • a strong focus on customer service
  • excellent negotiation skills
  • technical, logistical, organisational and problem-solving ability
  • ability to translate customer's ideas into a product
  • strong knowledge of factory procedures
  • a genuine interest in the cost of products and the manufacturing process
  • an understanding of the market for the merchandise in question

For further information about the profession of merchandising, please visit Explore These Professions.

Taken from Career Times 10 February 2006
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