Fashion merchandising makes the connection between creative fashion designs and commercial success possible. Whether in the aisles of a brick-and-mortar store or within the dynamic landscape of ecommerce, the role of fashion merchandising is pivotal to the success of a fashion-focused business. It’s the magic that transforms apparel and accessories into must-have items, influences consumer choices, and shapes the retail experience.
What is fashion merchandising?
Fashion merchandising is the strategy retailers use to present clothing, accessories, and other fashion items to consumers. Fashion merchandisers conduct market research to impact product selection, assortment planning, and retail prices. They also tackle visual merchandising, whether that’s creating store displays for an in-person retail company or designing an appealing website for an ecommerce apparelbusiness.
Fashion merchandising professionals also stay on top of the latest fashion trends so they can inform sourcing decisions to meet consumer demands. They do all of this with the primary goal of helping fashion retailers reach their target markets.
What does fashion merchandising involve?
The role of a fashion merchandising professional may vary from business to business, depending on factors like platform, size, and budget. Typically, fashion merchandisers work with purchasing agents, product planners, and fashion marketing teams to develop strategies for choosing and presenting clothing and accessories to the end consumer. Here are five important components of the fashion merchandising process.
1. Market research
Market research is the first step for making informed decisions on the job. It’s important for fashion merchandisers to keep their eye on the fashion world, whether by attending fashion shows or meeting with fashion designers and fashion executives, so they know about upcoming fashion lines and apparel product developments. Social media is also an essential tool for discovering trends and finding inspiration.
Market research also involves understanding consumer preferences and demands, and gathering information and feedback through channels such as reviews, surveys, and social listening.
Finally, market research for fashion merchandising includes competitor analysis. By monitoring the offerings and strategies of other fashion retailers, merchandisers can identify gaps in the market where their business can develop a competitive edge.
2. Product selection
The product selection phase of the fashion merchandising process involves a combination of data-driven decision-making, creative intuition, and knowledge about the fashion world. Fashion merchandisers use market research and their connections in the fashion industry to predict which clothing and accessories will be in demand. They also analyze historical sales data to identify which products have performed well in the past and determine which styles will likely be successful. Likewise, they may need to discontinue items that have not sold.
In addition to trend forecasting, fashion merchandisers also need to factor in budget, seasonality, brand identity, sustainability, and ethical considerations when selecting products.
3. Assortment planning
Most fashion retailers aim to carry a well-balanced variety of clothing and accessories. For example, if a fashion retailer does well selling staple pieces such as jeans and t-shirts, their merchandisers will buy deep in those categories, but they may also make smaller orders of jackets and shoes to complement the staples. This allows them to test new products and createattractive displays that include both the best sellers and more novel items. Another bonus: rotating in new and unique fashion items can make your inventory feel fresher, keeping buyers checking back for more.
Another vital aspect of assortment planning is choosing which variations and how many pieces of each to stock. Typically, products will come in multiple colors and sizes, and fashion merchandisers must use market research and historical sales data to figure out how deep to buy in each variation.
For instance, if the last jacket your business stocked sold out of size large first, and you still have some extra-small jackets in the warehouse, you might increase the number of large jackets and decrease the number of extra-small jackets in your next order.
4. Setting prices
Price setting starts with a cost analysis, in which merchandisers calculate the expenses involved in producing or purchasing fashion products. They then conduct competitive pricing research to evaluate their competitors’ pricing strategies.
Market demand and consumer behavior also help determine the best price for products. Perceived value plays a significant role, as fashion products associated with quality, unique design, or prestigious branding can command higher prices than fast fashion. Many merchandisers will also suggest using discounts, promotions, and sales events strategically to influence buying decisions.
The ultimate goal is to set prices that are competitive, attractive to customers, and profitable for the brand.
5. Visual merchandising
Visual merchandising is a crucial aspect of fashion merchandising focused on creating attractive displays of products to appeal to customers and encourage sales.
For in-person retail spaces, visual merchandisers enhance the store’s aesthetics and customer experience while optimizing product exposure. For example, for a large department store, creating a strategic and intuitive-feeling store layout may be paramount, whereas for a small, local boutique, the focus may be on creating a unique experience.
Visual merchandising in ecommerce, also known as digital merchandising, is not so different from its in-store counterpart. Digital merchandisers ensure product images are high-quality and they strategically position products on the website, much like in-store displays. They also organize fashion products and promotions into well-structured categories and thematic collections, making navigation easy.
Requirements for a fashion merchandising career
There are no hard-and-fast rules for aspiring fashion merchandisers to follow, and specific requirements will depend on the company, industry, and seniority. While earning a fashion merchandising degree or taking relevant courses is a great way to gain the knowledge you’ll need to be successful in this industry, many employers will be happy to consider candidates with real-world retail experience. Whatever your educational or employment background, here are the skills you should develop to become an effective fashion merchandiser:
Understanding current and emerging fashion trends is essential for curating product assortments that resonate with your target market. It enables fashion merchandisers to select styles, colors, and sizes that align with consumer demands.
Knowledge of the fashion world, including designers, brands, and history, can also help you as you make these decisions, and it can help you foster relationships with fashion designers, suppliers, and buyers.
Research skills are crucial for a fashion merchandiser because they provide valuable insights into consumer preferences, market trends, and competitive dynamics. Effective market research and consumer research helps merchandisers make informed decisions about product selection, pricing, marketing strategies, and more.
Fashion merchandisers must excel in decision-making, as they make critical choices every day and navigate a complex web of variables, including market trends, consumer demands, and budget constraints. Effective decision-making ensures the right products are selected, priced competitively, and marketed effectively.
Fashion merchandisers need to be creative to create attractive displays. In the fashion industry, where style and trends constantly evolve, creative thinking is vital for delivering fresh and engaging experiences that resonate with customers. Creative thinking can also help in solving complex merchandising challenges, such as balancing aesthetics with profitability and sustainability.
Fashion merchandising FAQ
What does a fashion merchandiser do?
A fashion merchandiser is responsible for conducting market research, selecting and curating clothing and accessories, assortment planning, determining retail prices, and visual merchandising.
How do you start a career in fashion merchandising?
A career in fashion merchandising often begins with relevant education, such as an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising or retail management. Practical experience is equally important, and internships or entry-level positions in areas like retail, buying, or merchandising can help get you a foothold in the industry. You should also stay informed about fashion trends and market dynamics.
How does fashion merchandising impact a brand or business?
Fashion merchandising significantly impacts a brand or business by influencing product selection, pricing, display and fashion marketing strategies. Effective fashion merchandising aligns a business with fashion trends and consumer demands and can contribute to increasing profits and long-term success. Conversely, poor merchandising decisions can result in excess inventory and missed sales opportunities, and can even damage a brand’s image.