What is a Merchandising Manager?

A Merchandising Manager is responsible for making decisions related to stocking, pricing and presenting goods in retail stores. They also analyze sales and inventory data to determine consumer preferences that help them decide which items to put on sale or how much of a particular product they should purchase for stocking purposes.

Merchandising Managers have a certain amount of creative freedom, as they often plan product displays that will attract the attention of the customers and entice them to buy products. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for Merchandising Managers, which are categorized as Purchasing Managers, is expected to show 2 percent growth through 2024, amounting to around 700 annual openings. This slowed growth is due to many organizations contracting with third parties to complete tasks typically designated for Merchandising Managers to decrease costs.

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Merchandising Manager Duties and Responsibilities

When striving to accomplish their goals of stocking, displaying and monitoring different products, Merchandising Managers perform various tasks, which often depend on the size and location of the store or stores they oversee. We examined several job listings to identify these core Merchandising Manager duties and responsibilities.

Conducting Demographic Research

Merchandising managers have to gather demographic data from vendors that is based on the income, average age and sell-through data relevant to the customer base in their store’s area. Merchandising managers analyze this data and use it to assist marketing personnel in purchasing and presenting items that are likely to sell well in stores.

Identifying Optimal Vendors and Making Wise Purchasing Decisions

Merchandising Managers are often responsible for identifying and working with reliable vendors who can most successfully fulfill product needs at the best price. Once the vendors are identified, purchases need to be made at the right time and in the correct amounts to best fit the store’s needs.

Forecasting and Negotiating

One of the roles of a Merchandising Manager is to collaborate with the finance department to forecast or determine whether the costs of raw materials will increase or decrease. Once these forecasts are made, decisions can be made as to whether to try to negotiate with vendors to lock in a price on products that may experience a rise in production cost and potentially cost the store more to stock.

Visual Merchandising

For Merchandising Managers, creating planograms is a regular duty. Planograms detail the most attractive and logical layout for items for sale. If working in a larger setting, you may lead a visual merchandising team that will assist in carrying out the plans.

Merchandising Manager Skills

Successful Merchandising Managers are resourceful, team-oriented, highly analytical thinkers who can turn their thoughts into actions. Above all, Merchandising Managers are extremely disciplined and goal-oriented, which helps them achieve the goals at hand. To find out more about the skills employers are seeking in Merchandising Managers, keep reading.

Core skills Based on job listings we read, employers want Merchandising Managers with these core skills. If you want to work as a Merchandising Manager, focus on the following.

  • Communication Skills Being a great communicator is key because Merchandising Managers deal with other management members, employees they supervise and even customers.
  • Organizational Skills Merchandising Managers aren’t just responsible for a few things. They are responsible for multiple categories of things such as suppliers, ordering, inventory assessment, sales assessment, displays – the list goes on.
  • Leadership Skills Leadership skills are necessary because Merchandise Managers hire and supervise employees, deal with conflicts, and motivate employees to meet merchandising goals.
  • Disciplined Work Ethic Merchandising Managers have to work independently to deliver results in a vast array of fast-paced and dynamic arenas. Therefore, it’s imperative that they stay focused and work diligently day after day without fail.
  • Critical-Thinking Skills Merchandise managers have to consistently analyze the needs of their store and make plans to fill those needs. Also, they have to find ways to counteract fallout when their best laid plans don’t go as expected.

Advanced skills While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Having these as part of what you have to offer as a Merchandising Manager can broaden your career options.

  • Advanced degree, such as a master’s degree in business
  • Five or more years of experiencing in merchandising, retail/inventory control or business management
  • Proven track record of creating winning situations for both vendors and customers
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Merchandising Manager Q & A

Considering pursuing a career as a Merchandising Manager? “As a Merchandising Manager … I am in charge of growing our team of Merchandisers and moving our department forward through new product initiatives and processes,” says Merchandising Manager, Julie Schieferstein of OneClickVentures.com. We talked to Julie to find out what being a Merchandising Manager is all about. Here’s what she had to say.

What are some of the core duties performed by a Merchandising Manager?

  • Create Open-to-Buy plans monthly
  • Strategic inventory planning
  • Work to improve and maintain costs
  • Work to improve processes to build better efficiency
  • Research new product and category opportunities for employer’s brands
  • Work with marketing on brand/product partnerships

What challenges do you face as a Merchandising Manager?

I think there is always the challenge of having the right amount of stock. You want to make sure you have enough to make the sale, but you don’t want to have too much either. Finding that balance can be hard, especially in years of unpredicted growth!

What tools do Merchandising Managers use most?

  • Our data analyzing tool, DOMO
  • Excel! (Lots of spreadsheets)

What should someone consider before becoming a Merchandising Manager?

For this area, I definitely think it is important to get a degree in either merchandising or business. Strong skills in Excel come in handy, but also a creative eye.

What type of person is successful in this job?

I started as an intern at One Click and moved my way up to Merchandising Manager by working hard and seizing opportunities when they came around. We are a smaller company, so the opportunity to grow and advance is there if you put in the work and dedication and truly care about the brands and the company.

What do you find to be the most rewarding about being a Merchandising Manager?

I love seeing the products I source become successful on our websites. Nothing is better than finding that customer need and fulfilling it!

Merchandising Manager Salary

The median annual salary for Merchandising Managers, categorized by the BLS as Purchasing Managers, is a little over $108,000. Merchandising Managers in the 10th percentile earn around $60,000 per year. Those who are highest paid make around $173,000 per year. Merchandising Managers in Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island earn the highest median salaries annually in the U.S. – $137, 140, $137,020 and $132,760, respectively.

Merchandising Manager Resources

We went to the Web to look for more industry resources to help you continue investigating a career as a Merchandising Manager. From helpful web resources to industry groups, this list is full of opportunities to learn and engage.

On the Web
Retail Design Blog

A blog, full of creative design ideas, to inform and inspire those in the retail industry.

Retail Systems Research

A research company run by retailers for retailers, which gives insight into issues such as business and technology challenges that face management.

Merchandising Matters

A blog dedicated to all facets of the merchandising industry that can be a source of helpful information to Merchandising Managers.

Industry Groups
American Marketing Association

A wealth of content that offers insight into the best practices for marketers with an eye toward the future.

National Retail Federation

The NRF advances the interests of the retail industry by advocating, communicating and educating.

Merchandising Manager Books
Guide to Effective Retail Merchandise Management - A Step by Step Guide to Merchandising in a Retail Store by Meir Liraz

This guide covers what you need to know about buying, stocking and making the most of your selling space.

Visual Merchandising, third edition: Windows and In-Store Displays for Retail by Tony Morgan

A user-friendly guide that offers helpful hints and tips from the top visual merchandisers.

Store Design and Visual Merchandising: Creating Store Space That Encourages Buying by Claus Ebster

A helpful book, based on consumer and psychological research, which offers hands-on suggestions for making the most of a store’s space to increase sales.

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