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A merchandise manager buys and arranges products in a store to maximize sales volume. This may involve products at a single store or across a chain of related facilities, depending on the management structure of the company. Job openings of this nature typically require at least two years of experience in merchandise management, and it is also possible to go to college or technical school to receive a degree in this or a related subject. While not an absolute requirement, degrees can make job applicants more competitive.
Merchandise managers need to keep track of trends. They may attend conferences and trade shows, read trade magazines, follow pop culture, and use other tools to find out what kinds of products people are likely to buy and may demand in the future. Using this information, they decide what to order for the store and make decisions about timing and order quantity. As products arrive, the merchandise manager arranges them in the most suitable way to increase sales, thinking about the layout of the entire store in the process.
At a large store, a merchandise manager may have assistants. Individual departments can have their own merchandising staff who organize their products while remaining accountable to a head manager. These staffs can track individual sales and trends in their departments and may assist with the generation of sales reports. Such documents provide important information about what is selling and when, to allow merchandise managers to make informed decisions about restocking and expanding products on offer.
Staff education can also be a responsibility of the merchandise manager. People may receive training in how to sell a product, with information about its origins and uses, to increase customer satisfaction and sales. Clerks at a department store, for example, may need to know about current fashion trends so they can make sound recommendations to customers. Tact can also be a component of training; if a gown doesn’t look appropriate for a customer, for example, the clerk needs to be able to say so gracefully and without causing offense.
In addition to college education, people can get training in this field by working in individual departments with a merchandise manager as a mentor. Some companies encourage their managers and senior staff to groom promising employees, facilitating movement up the chain of seniority by the company’s best and brightest. People with extensive experience high in the merchandising ranks of one store may be able to transfer to another as positions open up, or could use that experience to apply to a job with another company.
There's a large amount of psychology in what a merchandise manager does, as things like contrasting packaging color and shelf height subconsciously affect what people are likely to buy. Many manufacturers have agreements in place with retailers to reserve the eye-level shelves, as they are the most visible and therefor popular.
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