A general merchandising manager plays a key role in retail operations. Responsibility can include selecting and purchasing store inventory, supervising marketing efforts, and managing sales. To perform these duties requires a keen sense of the store's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Conducting a SWOT analysis can give the general merchandising manager the information needed to make the strategic decisions so vital to the business.
Whether you’re born with the clothing taste gene or have developed it through years of research and observation, the key strength for a general marketing manager is finding merchandise that will sell at a profit. That involves more than spotting trends – a general merchandising manager also has to be a shrewd negotiator who can secure a good price, terms and delivery for popular items. Stability can be a strength. If your store has been around for a long time, and has a solid reputation and a stable lease, it should ease your conversations with suppliers concerned about stores going out of business. Robust data about your customer preferences and shopping habits makes it easier to plan the timing of sales events.
Weaknesses that complicate a general merchandising manager’s task can come from within the manager's skillset or from the company. If a company has cash-flow issues and can’t meet the requested payment terms, it could result in a lack of merchandise in sufficient quantities to sustain the store. Another weakness can be if there's little differentiation between your products and those of other stores. A lack of differentiation makes it easy for customers to switch stores for added savings or convenience, so if you're going with the flow and playing it safe you may be putting yourself at risk. Branding can also be a weakness -- you’re not going to get much premier merchandise easily if your store has a reputation for offering inexpensive knockoffs.
If your store has private-label brands, expanding that range and availability can bring opportunities for growth. Store expansion can also be an opportunity, particularly if it extends the general merchandising manager's purchasing power. Rolling out a new product line is an opportunity for growth, especially if it diversifies your store's portfolio. Possibilities to expand your customer base, such as by increasing the presence of your online store, can open new markets and increase the influence of the marketing manager among suppliers.
Being a general merchandising manager is not the kind of job to have if you enjoy a restful night's sleep unworried about emerging threats. Competition is fierce; it only takes one year of a competitor guessing right on style trends and you guessing wrong to be in serious trouble. Downward economic trends can threaten a high-end clothing store by decreasing the number of customers in the market. If you rely on a few suppliers, and those suppliers raise their prices or sign exclusive agreements with others, you'll need to change your strategy quickly to avoid losing business.