If you’ve got a passion for fashion, a career in fashion merchandising might be for you. Fashion merchandisers are often the unsung heroes of the fashion industry. While designers might be responsible for creating innovative new trends, fashion merchandisers are the ones who popularize those trends.
Think about that scene from The Devil Wears Prada: That cerulean sweater Anne Hathaway wore was cropped from a runway show by a fashion buyer, then given to a fashion merchandiser who put it on shelves. A visual merchandiser then placed it in a storefront, and thus, a trend was born.
So, what exactly is fashion merchandising? Let’s first look at the visual merchandiser Wikipedia.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Fashion merchandising is the promotion of apparel sales and follows the chain of apparel from the designer to the consumer.
Visual Merchandising, According To Wikipedia
The visual merchandiser Wikipedia page offers some insights behind what visual merchandising actually is: helping develop floor plans of a store to maximize sales. Ever wonder who swapped out the dimly lit corridors and booming music at Hollister for a quieter, brighter experience? That was a visual merchandiser. According to the visual merchandiser Wikipedia page, the job commonly occurs in retail spaces and duties include everything from choosing signage to switching around the store layout.
Fashion merchandising encompasses a whole lot more than just visual merchandising.
Apparel Merchandising Definition
Apparel or fashion merchandising isn't to be confused with visual merchandising, although visual merchandising is a type of fashion merchandising. The apparel merchandising definition involves the actual production and distribution of designs to the consumer. A fashion merchandiser would follow this trail from start (the designer) to middle (manufacturing) to the end (in the store and in the hands of the consumer) or take on any one aspect in the chain. It doesn’t necessarily just involve clothing either but retail sales of all kinds including beauty and housewares.
Fashion Merchandising Careers
A fashion merchandiser can take on a number of different careers in the industry. This includes product development (i.e. figuring out which features of design make the design more sought after and profitable) and trend forecasting (i.e. figuring out what people are going to want to buy in future seasons). Other fashion merchandisers prefer to go into buying. These are the folks who decide which designs are in your favorite boutiques and e-commerce stores.
That floral A-line dress from Gap was chosen by a buyer in the same way the wedding dress you purchased at Kleinfeld was chosen by a buyer.
Because there’s no one apparel merchandising definition, creatives who decide to go into the field can also work on fashion show production and styling. Ever wonder how Rihanna makes best-dressed lists? She can thank her stylist for picking out the goods that suit her style and flatter her figure.
Visual Merchandising Tasks
Visual merchandising is a little different than plain old fashion merchandising. The people who go into this field generally work in retail spaces only. They’re the ones responsible for mapping out a store in a way that’s most profitable. For example, a visual merchandiser decides to put sugary cereal on the lower shelves of grocery stores, right at a child’s eye-level.
They’re also the reason necessities like milk, butter and bread tend to be at the back of supermarkets, which requires you to go through the entire store and browse goods you might not have considered if you weren’t shopping on an empty stomach.
Does Fashion Merchandising Require School?
Most people who go into fashion merchandising follow a bachelor’s or associate program in the fashion industry. There are many colleges that offer fashion merchandising as a specific major, but those looking to enter the field may also study visual merchandising and business.
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.