If you want to get into merchandising, here’s a guide on how to break into the high-flying world of retail.
You probably knew that retail merchandisers (detailed here by the National Careers Service) make important decisions about product inventory, setting prices and designing visual displays. But you might not have known that it’s a lot more complicated than that – the job requires acute analytical skills, creativity, and a strong understanding of what motivates a consumer to buy (as totaljobs explains).
DO: Collect Relevant Experience
A degree might be helpful, but relevant experience can be just as good. College or not, racking up some time on the shop floor will give you a better understanding of buyer behaviour, and get you up to speed with the latest in point-of-sale technology. And when you’re doing your personal shopping, pay attention to what’s going on in other stores.What’s being placed by the door or set up next to the tills? Which items have gone on sale and how are they being promoted? A little outside perspective can go a long way towards improving your own practices.
DON’T: Assume There’s Only One Way to Get InSuccessful merchandisers come from a variety of different backgrounds. Some will climb up the ladder from the showroom floor (as many as 40%), while others will be business graduates or even product marketing professionals from other industries. There’s no wrong way to get in the door, and if you know you’ve got what it takes, you can make it happen.
DO: Load Up on EmpathyWhether online or in a brick-and-mortar location, merchandising is all about creating the right environment for the buyer. Whether you’re talking about user experience (UX) in a digital context, or the customer journey in a physical store, the basic underlying principle is the same for both – put yourself in the customer’s shoes, see what they see, and find new ways to enhance their shopping experience.
DON’T: Be Afraid of Numbers.An important part of any merchandising job is analysing data in order to pinpoint high-profit items and weed out the under-performers. Familiarising yourself with programmes like Excel could give you a headstart. Experienced or not, eventually you’ll have to deal with the numbers. You know you’ve nailed it when your spreadsheets become a crystal ball for predicting the future - or at least for predicting sales in your next quarter.
DO: Be Ready to Innovate.When they were launched, the new Apple Store represented a radical new approach to the way customers interacted with products in a retail environment. Today’s consumer lives in a multi-platform world where the lines between bricks and clicks are becoming blurrier by the minute. What new ideas can you bring to deliver an exceptional, cutting edge experience for the customer?
Take it to the “Next” Level
The merchandising industry is all about embracing new ways of thinking, and High Street favourite Next is leading the pack with a recruitment programme that’s as up-to-the-minute as their cutting-edge designs. A recent article from LaunchPad Recruits outlines the challenges facing stores like Next, and how they’re implementing innovative new strategies and technologies to overcome recruiting obstacles.
This newfound ability to gain valuable insights into personality, intelligence, and people skills has made it an easier industry to access, even for those lacking a great deal of relevant experience. These days, if you’re good with numbers, great with people, and up for a challenge, you’re likely a perfect candidate for a career in retail merchandising.
(Main image credit: Ged Carroll/flickr)