How to: Become an Assistant Merchandiser
Starting out –
The field of Merchandising is a thriving sector within the Fashion Industry and great way for an Analytical minded person to get in the door who is not necessarily “creative”.
The best way to start out within merchandising would be to begin with 3 main factors –
1) A-C grade within Maths GCSE
2) An analytical/numerical based degree
3) Retail experience and Head office Exposure
With reference to the first point, the ideal candidate would be an over-achiever within Mathematics. This is because the fundamentals of the role would include a strong knowledge of percentages, ratios and multiplication to help manage stock options and allocations to a set number of stores.
The 2nd point is probably the most important. An analytical degree such as Business studies, Psychology, International Management Marketing or Accounting etc would show the potential retailer that you have a further understanding of the world of business at degree level. Also, that you are capable of grasping what it takes to become a strong merchandiser. Dealing with the day to day duties, (figures on a spread sheet) seeing possible and probable outcomes and resolving them before issues arise, all with the commerciality of the business in mind is what will differentiate you from others looking to get into merchandising. It is all about the extra mile and putting in 150%.
Thirdly, having that added element of retail experience will show you what happens once the stock hits the shop floor. Analysing sales, stock counts and identifying fashion trends will be key to gaining the right knowledge to become a merchandiser. You will feedback to head office your thoughts and suggestions to improve the consumers experience and the brand performance.
Once you have these 3 main factors it’s all about applying to the right kind of business for you. If you want luxury, high street, large or small brands it will take time to gain the perfect role. You will be invited to assessment days and be asked to complete a large number of Maths/psychometric tests as well as researching the brand and proving to the line manager you have a passion for the brand and for fashion.
Starting on the Merchandising ladder –
If you are successful you can go down two routes. One being an MAA (Merchandising Admin Assistant) the second being an Allocator. Within these roles you will learn the basics of merchandising – ensuing the right stock arrives at the right store at the right time, analysing trade actions, creating reports and dealing directly with stores on stock queries.
With solid Entry level Merchandising skills behind you (on average 2 years but sometimes it can be more or less) you will then hopefully have the option of promotion to Senior Merchandising Admin Assistant or in some cases if the brand doesn’t have this level the next step is Assistant Merchandiser. Within this role you will step up your responsibility and take on more advanced tasks to complete i.e. updating the WSSi, presenting to senior management, reforecasting potential sales and also suggesting promotions and markdowns. You will work closely with other departments within Head office including Buying, Design, Supply Chain and Finance. You will also have the added responsibility of managing an MAA underneath you. It’s a big jump from MAA to AM so, if possible, push for as much added responsibility as you can so that you can show your line manager you are ready. For example, producing ad hoc reports for senior management, taking on analysis and shadowing a current AM to gain knowledge where you can.
Becoming an Assistant Merchandiser –
It’ not highly common for MAAs to be promoted and offered a new role within another retailer but at times companies do look for entry level AMs but these are highly competitive. Once you become an Assistant Merchandiser, there are a number of levels and competencies to hit and at each difference stage you will gain more responsibilities and eventually your own department to manage.
Merchandising is a very fulfilling sector to build a career in and a key department focusing on the success of a retailer’s sales and profitability. Merchandising is perfect for someone who is passionate about fashion but has a business mind and someone who has a keen eye for detail. There are a number of Assistant Merchandiser roles in the market with current competitive salaries.
Written by Sophie Whiteside.