Merchandising 101: Buying and Selling Products

So what is merchandising anyway?

Merchandising is one of those subjects that gets mentioned a lot when it comes to running a successful fashion business.

You often hear about companies restructuring their merchandising teams, or a new CMO (Chief Merchandising Officer) comes on board to make some big changes.

But what really doesn’t get discussed is what exactly a merchandiser does and why it’s so important.

In A Large Company

So within larger corporations (i.e. a Ralph Lauren, Macy’s, J Crew, etc.), the role of a merchandiser can greatly differ depending on the company’s structure.

The person can be considered a buyer; someone who is managing lots of inventory and ensuring that it’s selling properly.

The person could also be working closely with design, product development, sales, and production as the ultimate liaison when it comes to selling products.

Or the person can be solely responsible for analyzing the business from a numbers perspective.

What seems to be the most common is actually a combination of all of these responsibilities in various parts.

A Grey Area

The reason there is somewhat of a “grey area” when it comes to the role of a merchandiser is that a good merchandiser has to be involved in so many aspects of the business to make sure they are doing their job correctly.

From working with the design from the very beginning stages to ensure that their vision is not only in line with the brand and what’s trending, but to make sure that the product will actually sell. The most important thing, obviously.

A merchandiser also has to make sure the price point is aligned with the customer, make sure that the sales team (if wholesale is being done) understands the product and is fully on board and knowledgeable enough to sell the collection.

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In A Small Company

In smaller companies, what we tend to see happen is that merchandising can often fall to the wayside. Meaning, this role is 99% of the time done by one person (usually the owner) but is something that may not get the attention it deserves.

When producing your own products to sell, it’s very important to focus on all aspects of merchandising.

However, if we were to break merchandising down into three categories or areas to focus on this is what they would be:

Assortment Planning

You never want to create a style just to create a style. Every piece in your collection should be fully thought out and designed with the intention of it going to production.

Product Development can be very expensive – especially as a small business. When you get to be on the level of a Ralph Lauren however, you’ll often see that designers will create prototypes left and right.

So until you’re at that level be sure to take some of these key questions into consideration when it comes to your assortment planning.

1. Are you creating styles that you know will sell?
2. Are they on trend?
3. Are there styles that are eye-catching and will appeal to buyers?
4. What is special about these pieces?
5. Do you have the right mix of color, silhouette, style that you know the consumer wants/needs/likes?

Pricing Your Styles

As a company that works with early to mid-stage fashion entrepreneurs, this is one area that we get the most questions about.

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Understanding and learning how to price your product is something that needs to be carefully considered, tweaked, and then tweaked some more.

You’ve got to find your sweet spot.

You need to research, get feedback, and understand what’s working and what’s not working.

Ask yourself questions like:
1. What is my margin?
2. What are my competitors selling similar products for?
3. What is the perceived value of this style?

Pricing is an endless topic of discussion that is a huge part of merchandising.

Analyzing Your Sales

It doesn’t matter if you have 5 styles or 500 styles, you’ve got to analyze your sales figures and overall business.

In order to actually be profitable, it’s such an important part of merchandising and getting down into the nitty-gritty of what’s working and what’s not working.  Numbers don’t lie.

So when it comes to analyzing your business you’ve got to take things into consideration such as:

1. What were my top sellers?
2. What were my worst sellers
3. What was the actual sell-thru within the store?
4. What sold online well?
5. What were customer’s and buyer’s feedback?

The Bottom Line

Merchandising is an essential part of all fashion businesses or any product based business for that matter.

When you start applying these strategies into your business you’ll gain a clearer perspective and have a better idea of what you can do to improve season after season.

To learn more about sales and merchandising be sure to sign up for our free course on how to get your collection sold into retailers store. We teach all things sales and merchandising in this free 5-day course.

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