Fashion merchandisers typically work in the buying, selling, and marketing aspects of the fashion industry, as opposed to areas of creation and design. These merchandisers may work within retail operations as purchasing agents who select product lines and promotional methods to enhance the retail outlet's branding and market share, while others work directly for designers and fashion brands and help place products in stores, find shelf space, and offer marketing inducements and promotions.
In addition to aptitude for the fashion industry, strong communication skills are essential for this position, as merchandisers typically work with industry personnel to either purchase or sell fashion lines, depending on the employer. They should be skilled at identifying both in-demand and on-trend designs while obtaining the best-possible cost structures, and those who work for design/development companies should know how to match products and branding to third-party retailers at the highest-possible sales volumes.
Customer demand drives the fashion industry, and merchandisers work to help frame trends, tastes, and buying behavior. This typically includes working with marketing departments and social media, as well as participating in industry events, fashion shows, and expositions.
Aspiring fashion merchandisers should have an educational background in the field, and many universities and community colleges offer coursework and programs which cover the specialized business aspects of the fashion industry. Fashion merchandisers typically start their careers as assistants or interns to senior merchandising personnel, and most employers in retail and design prefer candidates who have extensive practical experience and professional networks. Most fashion merchandisers work long hours in an office environment, and field work with accounts and frequent travel may also be required.