Fashion Merchandising 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Exciting Career Track

Fashion Merchandising 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Exciting Career Track

Fashion Merchandising 101: Everything You Need to Know About This Exciting Career Track banner

You love all things fashion but also pride yourself on your leadership and communication skills. Why not bring your talents and interests together to form a promising career?

As a fashion merchandiser, you will enjoy the ability to shape retail, marketing, and many other facets of an exciting, fast-paced industry. First, however, you’ll want to get trained at a respected college. The right fashion merchandising program will prepare you for the many challenges present within this dynamic field.

Keep reading to learn what fashion merchandising is, which types of positions it involves, and how you can prepare for a successful career by earning your Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising & Retailing.

What Is Fashion Merchandising?

At its most basic level, fashion merchandising involves the business side of the fashion world. That said, this career path is far more diverse than most people realize, largely due to the many facets intrinsic to the modern fashion industry.

The cyclical nature of fashion is far from secret, but even the most knowledgeable enthusiasts often struggle to determine which trends will hit it big at any given time. Still, predicting styles—and responding to existing trends—is critical to success not only with apparel sales, but also for interior design, multimedia, and in several other fields.

Fashion merchandising brings a structured approach to all this by integrating tried-and-tested business practices into the fashion world. This practice aims to present the right products to the right consumers at the right time.

Education Requirements

Those unfamiliar with fashion merchandising often assume that few academic credentials are needed to succeed in this field. It’s true that some big names have made their mark without studying fashion as undergraduates, but they are the exception to the rule.

Earning a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising & Retailing gives you a thorough understanding of the business practices that guide the modern world of fashion. From textiles to showroom management, you’ll explore a variety of concepts of value to both you and future employers. What’s more, this program will equip graduates with transferable skills they can use in a variety of professional pursuits or a related field. Critical thinking and written communication, for example, are top priorities in your BS in Fashion Merchandising program—and these skills will remain relevant no matter which direction your career takes.

Many employers regard a bachelor’s degree as the minimum barrier to entry for jobs in fashion merchandising. While some companies will accept employees with a variety of different types of degrees, academic credentials specifically tied to fashion merchandising can provide a much-needed edge when seeking in-demand jobs.

Fashion Merchandiser Duties and Responsibilities

Different types of fashion merchandiser jobs call for different responsibilities, but all professionals must keep up to date with the latest trends. This means that fashion merchandisers must pay close attention to everything from new textile concepts to revolutionary manufacturing technologies and, of course, emerging influencers on social media. Fashion merchandisers should also be consistently aware of what’s going on with major designers and pop culture influences.

Those who can spot emerging trends before they take over hold the greatest potential for success in the fast-paced world of fashion merchandising. Beyond this, however, merchandisers must understand how to make the most of fashion opportunities as they arise. This means identifying and utilizing favorable pay structures to ensure the best margins possible.

Fashion Merchandising Careers

While many fashion merchandisers primarily focus on the responsibilities already highlighted, the field is surprisingly diverse. Fashion enthusiasts can work in a variety of niches and settings with many top job opportunities granting considerable creative license.

Interested in fashion merchandising but not sure which career track might be the best fit? The following are among the most exciting opportunities currently available:

1. Fashion Buyer

Fashion buyers are responsible for selecting products, such as garments and accessories, that will eventually be displayed and sold within retail locations. They typically work with several different brands, determining which blend is most likely to appeal to customers and, ultimately, drive a profit.

Trend forecasting plays a crucial role in this position as buyers must always be on the industry’s cutting-edge. To this end, many go out of their way to develop strong relationships with up-and-coming brands or designers. Brand discovery can take place via social media or with traditional methods, such as attending fashion shows.

Wages can vary dramatically from one retailer to the next, but many fashion buyers enjoy excellent earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), buyers and purchasing agents in retail trade reported median annual wages of $71,950 as of May 2023.

2. Retail Store Manager

Retail store managers keep locations running optimally on a day-to-day basis. Many report to district or regional managers, but they still hold a significant degree of control over how their stores are run.

Many retail store manager responsibilities revolve around employee recruitment and oversight. Managers need to find and hire reliable staff members who can be counted on to reflect positively on the company’s core brand. Beyond this, managers delegate tasks, complete performance reviews, and generally keep employees motivated. In some cases, the store manager’s responsibilities may also encompass budgeting, inventory, and ordering new products.

Data from the BLS reveals that ‘first-line supervisors of retail store workers’ earn, on average, $46,730 per year. The BLS estimates that over 1 million professionals are employed in this capacity with a significant share working in shoe and apparel stores.

3. Visual Merchandiser

Typically employed within retail settings, visual merchandisers are charged with making stores visually appealing while also drawing on consumer psychology to drive sales. They are often responsible for the layout of the sales floor and the appearance of store displays.

While the BLS cites average annual wages of $36,230 for employees within the category ‘merchandise displayers and window trimmers,’ far higher earnings are possible in some regions. In Louisiana, for example, the annual mean merchandise display worker wage is $49,970 per year.

Some visual merchandisers work in a management capacity in which they are responsible for supervising visual merchandising associates. In this role, visual managers may interact regularly with general managers, stylists, and other staff members to ensure that customers receive exceptional service.

Stepping up to a management-style position can bring about significant increases in wages. PayScale data reveals average earnings of $74,532 for visual merchandising managers.

4. Fashion Consultant

If you pride yourself on delivering impressive style makeovers, you may hold potential as a fashion consultant. This job emphasizes one-on-one interactions in which consultants integrate flattering styles with their clients’ preferences and personalities. The result? A carefully cultivated wardrobe in which each piece feels true to the client but also stylish enough to remain relevant.

In addition to working with individual clients, fashion consultants may provide stylistic insight for special projects, such as editorial photo shoots. Others serve as corporate liaisons, helping professionals determine which looks will enable them to make the best impression for important presentations, networking events, and other occasions.

While some fashion consultants are employed directly by retailers or designers, many start their own businesses or work as freelancers. This provides a high degree of control over their schedules, their pay, and their relationships with clients. This level of control can make wage patterns difficult to track, but many successful consultants are able to command significant rates from loyal clients.

5. Product Designer

As the title’s name suggests, product designers are responsible for developing and implementing products (or experiences) that meet the unique needs of a defined audience. Often, they begin the design process with the intention of addressing an unsolved problem while remaining true to the preferred aesthetic for the brand in question.

Product design wages can fall at either end of the spectrum. Some designers land six-figure salaries from major labels while others struggle to get by. In general, however, wages are promising in this field as indicated by the median $79,290 reported by the BLS.

6. Fashion Marketer

The terms ‘fashion merchandising’ and ‘fashion marketing’ are sometimes used interchangeably, but these actually reference different facets of the industry. Fashion marketing largely focuses on developing a brand and driving sales through digital communication.

A fashion marketer may be responsible for building a social media campaign designed to introduce or boost sales for a particular product or line of clothing. This unique role calls for an in-depth understanding of both the fashion industry and digital marketing essentials, such as search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.

Data collected by ZipRecruiter suggests that, as of April 2024, the average fashion marketer earned an annual $50,705. Opportunities for advancement are plentiful with fashion marketing managers earning $117,809 per year, according to salary information obtained by Glassdoor.

The field of fashion merchandising boasts impressive opportunities for many types of professionals. With passion and excellent training, you could be on your way to a career that challenges and excites you every day on the job.

Earn your bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising & retailing from JWU. For more information, complete the Request Info form, call 855-JWU-1881, or email [email protected].

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