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Retail & Sales careers

Retail: Merchandising & Allocation

What is merchandising?

You might think that merchandising is all about selling replica t-shirts outside Wembley Stadium after a Muse gig, or flogging black and white scarfs in the Newcastle United shop. However, merchandising and allocation is actually an essential part of all retail activity.

Careers in merchandising and allocation are all about making sure that the right products are sold in the right quantity, in the right place, at the right time. These guys need to know their market inside out. They will monitor sales and stock levels, forecast buying trends and then make sure that the required amount of products are on the shelves to meet customer demand.

What does a merchandiser do?

Merchandisers need to react to constantly changing marketplaces. Regional and local buying trends mean that you might find different products on the shelves of Tesco in Edinburgh and London. Seasonal changes also determine what is being sold. For instance, you wouldn’t get a lot of Christmas paraphernalia being sold at the height of summer.

People who work in merchandising and allocation need to have a keen interest in retail, as well as commercial awareness and excellent numerical skills. Merchandisers analyse lots of financial data and sales records, and thus need to be strong mathematically. These guys need to trust their expertise and insights and must be able to make important decisions.

Why are merchandisers necessary in the retail industry?

Retail merchandisers tend to work quite closely with the buying department. The buyers actually decide what products are sold, while the merchandisers are in charge of the money. They make the decisions about quantity, how much money should be spent, and define prices and sales margins.

This lot are the key to improving sales volume and profitability. The decision to offer bargains on certain products, such as ‘buy one get one free’ or ‘three for the price of two’, has been made by a merchandiser. These promotional decisions may be designed to make a bestselling product stay as a bestseller, or they may help to sell products that are struggling to fly off the shelves.

What qualifications do I need to be a merchandiser?

Finance and maths is a major part of a merchandiser’s job, as they must plan budgets, produce sales forecast documents and report back on financial situations to senior managers. A career in merchandising offers an interesting mix of interaction with data and interaction with people.

A merchandiser might be using specialist computer programs to monitor sales and stock statistics one minute, and then using their communication skills the next minute to liaise with store managers, buyers and even customers, to understand their wants, needs and buying trends.

Merchandisers also need to develop strong relationships with distributors and supply chain managers to make sure that products are delivered on time in the right amounts. After all, a delivery of chocolate advent calendars on the fourth of December, rather than at the end of November, could be costly.

Is merchandising and allocation the right industry for me?

The activities of people who work in merchandising and allocation are hugely important in making a retail company thrive. If sales aren’t going according to plan, then they will have to put in the hard work, analyse, evaluate, discover the root of problems and then take the necessary action to put it right. These careers can be fast-paced, exciting, and full of pressure.

However, with great responsibility comes great reward, as merchandisers can earn a handsome wage if they stick with it and get promoted into senior positions.

Want to be the Merchandiser of Venice, or a Shy-locksmith? Either is perfectly fine, of course! After all, they are both fast-paced, high-pressure occupations which take advantage of Shakespearian puns and analytical and communicative skills. If that doesn’t scare you, then you should definitely apply for some merchandising and allocation roles!