Retail Merchandising Careers

Explore the career requirements for retail merchandising. Get the facts about education, key skills necessary, median salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Do Retail Merchandisers Do?

Retail merchandisers are responsible for monitoring the state of merchandise across a store's locations, providing a connection between a store's management and a retail chain. They take note of buying trends and sales targets in order to develop effective marketing strategies. They also provide general managers with information regarding things such as promotions and upcoming product lines. They need to have good communication skills, be adept at managing data and possess a good understanding of a wide range of business practices. They are also responsible for the general aesthetic and public perception of the company, providing guidelines for staff on employee etiquette and behaviour. Consider the information in the following table to determine if a career in retail merchandising is right for you.

Education Required High school diploma or equivalent sufficient for most employers
Training Required On-the-job training common
Key Skills Customer service, interpersonal, persistence, and selling skills
Job Growth (2018-2028) 7% decline (for wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products)*
Median Salary (2019) $43,549 (for all retail merchandisers)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale

What Kind of Work Will I Do In Retail Merchandising?

The National Association for Retail Marketing Services (NARMS) reports that some merchandising jobs involve working for stores, manufacturers or independent marketing companies servicing their retail customer accounts ( Because many of these jobs are part-time, if you're a student, this may be a good way for you to enter retailing while still attending school.

Duties include taking inventory of sold and remaining products, putting up signs and resetting the displays. According to NARMS, as a merchandiser, you'll usually work with a tool called a 'planogram', which is a sort of map that tells you where to put the products on the display shelves, racks or elsewhere.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that merchandisers may also be buyers in charge of planning the purchases based on the company's budget, product sales history and buying trends ( If you have a creative side, you may be a visual merchandiser, designing and setting up displays to make the products look as attractive as possible to prospective buyers.

If you're outgoing and like selling, sales are the lifeblood of any business with a product to sell, whether you're a commissioned sales rep who travels from store to store or an hourly retail salesperson. If you enjoy marketing or advertising, you may find a place for your skills with a marketing department helping to develop strategies for promoting the product, including direct mail and print as well as online advertising.

According to the BLS, large stores will often have a different manager in charge of each of these departments, or there may be a manager who handles all facets of merchandising within a department, such as women's apparel or housewares. Larger stores often have more openings in different departments, making it easier for you to get hired and promoted. Many smaller companies will have just one or two managers in charge of several merchandising departments, so advancement may be more limited.

What Kind of Training Will I Need?

While most retail jobs still require only a high school diploma for entry, advancing in your career will be easier if you have a college degree in marketing, business, retail management, sales or merchandising. The BLS states that since the majority of inventory, sales analysis and product ordering is now done online, you'll also need to be proficient in computers, retail software and the Internet.

You'll need good written and verbal communication skills, as well as the ability to be flexible in scheduling and adapt to change. Good interpersonal and problem-solving skills as well as a professional demeanor are important to your success in retail merchandising.

As a field or visual merchandiser, you'll be moving and lifting products and equipment in the course of your work. Being physically fit and able-bodied is important for many retail merchandiser jobs, as you may need to be able to lift heavy loads and climb ladders to reach displays, according to NARMS. You should also be able to carry out multiple tasks, follow directions, work with minimal supervision and be well-organized.

The National Retail Federation Foundation (NRFF) offers information about certification in different areas of retailing, including management, as well as helpful information for students and others interested in merchandising and retail careers (

What Kind of Income Can I Earn?

The BLS reports that as of 2018, the median annual salary for wholesale and retail buyers (often called merchandise managers in clothing retail) was $62,750 per year. The top ten percent in the field earned over $104,190 per year, while the bottom ten percent made a median annual salary of $37,080 or lower. However, according to PayScale, retail merchandisers earned a median annual salary of $43,549 as of November 2019.

What Is the Employment Outlook?

According to the BLS, between 2018 and 2028, there will be a projected deccrease of 7% in job openings for buyers in this industry. This decline is primarily due to recent developments in procurement teachnology which increases the number of tasks being automated.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

If you work as a retail salesperson and gain some experience in the field, you may end up graduating to a supervisory or management position within your store. This will give you responsibility over the day-to-day operations of the store, including hiring staff and monitoring the general budget. You may also be interested in working as a customer service representative, providing support and help to customers with issues or questions regarding a product. These positions require no formal qualifications and offer many chances for advancement through experience in the field.

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