Fashion Merchandising vs. Retailing: Which is Right for You?

Fashion Merchandising vs. Retailing: Which is Right for You?

Fashion Merchandising vs. Retailing: Which is Right for You? banner

While they share similar career paths, the differences between fashion merchandising and retail marketing, or retailing, are important to know when considering a position in either field. They share common education and needs, and both are, in essence, a type of salesperson or procurement specialist. The similarities, however, end there. Features, tasks, and even career opportunities for fashion merchandising differ greatly from retail. When you dig into it, they are unique from each other.

What’s the Difference?

Fashion Merchandisers

As the title suggests, fashion merchandisers sell fashion—clothes, shoes, and accessories for men, women, and children. In order to excel in this career, you need to be in touch with the latest fashion trends and have an idea of what people are wearing. Typically, fashion merchandisers choose to seek a specialization in a particular area, such as men’s sportswear or women’s shoes. Fashion merchandising can be a part of the wholesale trade industry if the merchandiser works for a company that sells fashion apparel or the goods required to make apparel.


While retailers may sell fashion items like hats, shoes, and jeans, they sell other things, as well. They typically do not specialize in a particular product as fashion merchandisers do. Retailers sell a variety of goods, including home furnishings, electronics, food, tools, and even medical products. Typically, they purchase goods from a wholesaler on behalf of the company they work for, who sells these goods to consumers.

Education and Career

The coursework, education, and skills needed for careers in both fields are similar. However, once employed, career paths for fashion merchandisers and retailers can differ greatly. On the front end, skilled candidates for either career have typically earned a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising, retailing, business, or economics from an accredited university. Upon graduation, they’ll be prepared for either industry to pursue careers as buyers, purchasing agents, showroom managers, and more.

The learning doesn’t stop with a degree, however. Complementing their bachelor’s degrees, those who pursue careers in fashion merchandising should expect to attend industry workshops, training programs, and college courses in order to keep up to date with the latest industry trends. Those pursuing a retail marketing career should consider college courses in financial management, retail market management, and global retailing. They should also be prepared to stay up to date with ever-changing goods like autos and electronics, which may require participation in a variety of training and continuing education programs on a regular basis.

On the fashion side, a Fashion Merchandising & Retailing bachelor’s degree from Johnson & Wales University offers the opportunity to qualify for entry-level positions as a fashion coordinator or fashion promoter. On the retail side, the right degree can help you pursue a career as a product coordinator or assistant buyer for everything from kitchen appliances to potato chips. No matter which major you choose to study, your career options are open with positions like:

  • Product Coordinator
  • Marketing Representative
  • Assistant Buyer
  • Fashion Coordinator
  • Imaging Assistant
  • Showroom Manager
  • Visual Merchandiser
  • Fashion Forecaster
  • Blogger
  • Fashion Promoter

Job seekers with a master’s degree or industry experience can hold these positions:

  • Media Sales Executives
  • Operations Managers
  • Market Researchers
  • Fashion Editors

Jump Start Your Career in Fashion Merchandising or Retailing

Of course, the right career path begins with the right degree from Johnson & Wales University. We can help you reach your merchandising goals with a Bachelor of Science—Fashion Merchandising & Retailing or an MBA – Global Fashion Merchandising and Management. This program will give you the career skills and knowledge you need to be successful through coursework in:

  • Retailing
  • Textiles
  • The Business of Fashion
  • Retail Executive Decision Making
  • And more

Students will also have the opportunity to work with faculty for advice on selecting a specific career focus for their studies. Learn more about your educational opportunities in these growing fields today! Complete the “Request Info” form here, contact us at (855) 598-1881, or via email for more information.

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