Whether they sell cars or clothes, food or power tools, stores are designed to do one thing: make a profit. You can see how retailers use different "hooks" to attract buyers just from seasonal merchandise rotations. Your local sports store, for instance, will feature skis in the winter, fishing poles and baseball equipment in the summer, and football jerseys in the fall.
Merchandise management professionals help to optimize retail operations to return maximum profits per square foot-or per page of the catalog or company's website.1 Over the next 10 years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that merchandising management-related positions will grow at a rate of about 7% nationally (local markets may vary).2
However, effectively managing merchandise isn't just about visual merchandising-putting up displays in the windows, updating the e-commerce site, or re-designing the catalog. It's also not about holding sales and promotions, such as holiday markdowns or free gift giveaways.
Effective merchandise management is a process of planning and analysis that aims to maximize sales and profitability. Merchandising management professionals forecast customer demand to determine how much inventory of a specific item to buy, best practices for displaying it, and how to deal with merchandise that doesn't sell as quickly as necessary.3 Areas of responsibility include:
- Customer behavior and buying habits
- Inventory assessment and control
- Pricing strategies
- Shopfloor display strategies
- Sales tactics
- Marketing communications
In addition to increasing sales, merchandising management helps businesses gather important marketing data about their customers and about the product lines they feature in their stores. This information can be used to improve product designs, public relations, and store, website, or catalog layout.
Training For Merchandise Management Career Opportunities
If you're interested in gaining education that could lead to career opportunities in merchandising management, be prepared to study courses that overlap with retail management and business administration. A fundamental understanding of marketing and finance informs merchandising management functions, and statistical analysis also plays a very important role in day-to-day work in this field. Note that many merchandising management programs focus on the fashion industry, and will also teach fashion design fundamentals.
Associate Degree Programs
In general, two-year associate degree programs aim to produce graduates who are equipped to function in entry-level support positions in the field. This gives students a shorter-term qualification option that offers basic knowledge and practical skills. An associate degree could be sufficient to compete for job openings that would then offer further hands-on experience.
An associate degree program with a concentration in merchandising management would most likely cover course topics such as4:
- Principles of accounting and finance
- Visual merchandising basics
- Purchasing basics
- Business law
Bachelor Degree Programs
A four-year degree that focuses on merchandising management will obviously teach a broader range of skills than an associate degree. The curriculum in a bachelor degree program aims to produce graduates with a versatile skill set who are equipped to function within a creative or analytical team, or even as lower-level management. The emphasis is on developing planning, analytical, and decision-making skills that support business goals. Merchandising management degree programs at the bachelor level may include course topics such as:
- Publicity and promotion
- Pricing strategies
- Trend analysis and demand forecasting
- Product development
- Inventory control
This article is presented by BusinessDegrees.com, your online resource for information about business degree programs.
BusinessDegrees.com does not guarantee employment or salary.
1"Retail Merchandising Management." BizMove.com. Web. 10 Sept. 2010.
2Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition,Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos023.htm (visited September 10, 2010).
3Malone, Tim. "How Do You Define Merchandising Management?" Jewelers' Circular Keystone. Reed Elsevier, 6 Jan. 2009. Web. 13 Sept. 2010.
4"Bachelor of Arts Fashion Merchandising Degree." Academy.edu. The International Academy of Design and Technology - Tampa. Web. 9 Sept. 2010.