Fashion Merchandising Technician Careers: Job Description & Salary

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What are the pros and cons of a fashion merchandising technician career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a fashion merchandising technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Fashion Merchandising Technician

Fashion merchandising technicians, who are responsible for planning, buying, selling and promoting clothing and accessories to meet consumer demands, often work as buyers, store managers or visual merchandisers at the wholesale or retail levels. Consider some of the pros and cons of this fast-paced industry before deciding if it's right for you.

Pros of a Career as a Fashion Merchandising Technician
Broad field with opportunities (buying, management and visual display)*
Discounts on merchandise and performance-based cash bonuses for buyers*
Opportunities to assume leadership and decision-making positions*
Travel opportunities (within and outside the United States)*

Cons of a Career as a Fashion Merchandising Technician
Slower-than-average job growth for retail buyers*
Mergers have led to the elimination of in-store buying departments*
Stressful at times (potential to make decisions that jeopardize store or company profits and reputation)*
40+ hour work week (evening, weekend and holidays, as well as seasonal vacation restrictions)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description

Fashion merchandising is not a 'one size fits all' part of the clothing industry. It offers a number of areas in which to specialize including wholesale and retail buying, marketing, management, sales and visual display. Behind the scenes, buyers use sales history, market analysis and customer preferences to decide what kind of clothing and accessories their departments or stores will sell. At the store level, retail managers oversee the sales and operational activities of department managers and their staff. On the floor, visual merchandisers design displays and windows to tell a clothing 'story' and attract the customer's attention to the inventory. In small stores, it is not unusual for the store manager to also serve as the buyer and direct the merchandising activities. Whatever their role, fashion merchandising technicians work together to advance the company or store image and achieve sales objectives.

Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for wholesale and retail buyers as of May 2014 was about $52,000. Merchandisers and window trimmers earned a median annual salary of approximately $27,000 a year for the same period. As reported by Salary.com, the median annual salary for a retail store management trainee is near $37,000. An experienced senior store manager would earn a median salary of about 63,000 a year in March 2015.

Educational Requirements and Career Skills

The BLS reported that in the past competent salespeople could advance to higher-level positions without the benefit of a college degree. Currently, it is still possible to obtain an entry-level or training position in store management with only a high school diploma and on-the-job training. Job seekers with a bachelor's degree in an applied science (like fashion merchandising), business, economics or even engineering will be more likely to obtain positions as buyers. An accredited-fashion merchandising program will provide aspiring fashionistas with formal training in some or all of the following:

  • Financial, managerial and organizational structure of the fashion industry
  • Statistical analysis using industry-related computer software
  • Fashion marketing
  • Inventory and retail management
  • Strategic merchandising for apparel

Real Fashion Jobs From Real Employers

Leadership, communication and the ability to work as a member of team are some of the key qualities necessary to work in the fashion industry. Buyers must have a talent for fashion forecasting and the ability to spot new and emerging trends. The following sample job postings from March 2012 will give you an idea of what major retailers are looking for in fashion merchandising technicians.

  • An upscale department store in New York City is advertising for an assistant buyer with one year of experience for their women's contemporary clothing department. Candidates must have a college degree or equivalent employment, excellent communication and computer skills and a strong interest in learning and applying retail math concepts.
  • A company in Minneapolis, MN, has an opening for a fashion buyer to develop selling strategies, marketing plans and merchandise assortments for a 100-250 million-dollar fashion business for clothing, jewelry, shoes and accessories. Buyers work with product design and development teams to develop private labels and multicultural marketing initiatives.
  • A leader in men's clothing in San Francisco, CA, has an opportunity for a store manager or a store manager in training who would like to work in a fast-paced, customer service oriented environment. Managers will be expected to train staff members in new merchandise features, call their attention to new trends and help customers choose appropriate garments for special occasions.
  • A women's specialty store in Richmond, VA, is looking for a store manager with the ability to forecast and analyze business trends. This person must have a 2- or 4-year degree and 5-7 years of experience is preferred. They will be responsible for recruiting, selecting and mentoring lower-level managers and staff members while overseeing all operational, sales and merchandising activities.
  • A department store in White Plains, NY, needs a creative visual merchandiser with a sense of color and design to set up floor displays and mannequins. This position does not mention any educational prerequisites, but it does ask for a candidate with experience in ready-to-wear or home goods.

Standing Out in the Field

Experience, effectiveness and education will help fashion merchandising technicians stand out in their fields. Predicting what customers will want to buy the following season and evaluating suppliers are two of the most important skills you can acquire. In addition to online research, attending industry meetings and trade shows are ways you can learn about new trends and network with suppliers. A college degree and computer skills will help those who are interested in applying for managerial positions.

Continuing Education

Some design schools offer continuing and professional studies programs for both students and those already employed by the industry. Online classes, flexible formats and credit-for-work and life experience provide students with a more accessible and realistic way to earn a first or additional degree. For short-term, specialized training, you can also find professional certificate programs in visual merchandising, retail management and buying at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students who already hold a bachelor's degree in a fashion-related area can find executive education opportunities at a select number of schools. The Council of Fashion Designers of America provides several opportunities for education and professional development of fashion experts.

Alternative Career Paths

Advertising, Marketing or Public Relations Manager

Fashion merchandising technician just not the right career for you, many advertising, marketing and public relations managers are former buyers or purchasing agents who are accustomed to monitoring consumer, social and economic trends. They are responsible for overseeing promotional campaigns, developing marketing strategies and promoting companies and services. These are high-level, high-pressure positions that often require long hours and travel. This is a highly competitive field and depending on the job, employers usually prefer candidates with a bachelor's or master's degree in business administration, advertising, journalism or public relations. The BLS projected an overall increase of 13% in employment opportunities for advertising, marketing, promotions, public relations and sales managers through 2018. Median annual salaries vary according to education, experience and level of responsibility.

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representative

Just like buyers, wholesale and manufacturing representatives in the fashion industry must stay ahead of new merchandise and consumer trends. Sales representatives are responsible for generating interest in their company's products and persuading their clients to buy them. These positions require frequent travel and most of a rep's paperwork must be done in the evenings and on the weekends. According to the BLS, a high school diploma is the minimum requirement for entering the field although opportunities will be better for those who hold a college degree. The BLS projected an increase in employment for wholesale and manufacturing representatives of 7% between 2008 and 2018. As of May 2010, sales representatives could expect to earn a median annual salary of about $52,000.

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Kaplan University

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Louisiana State University Shreveport

  • Master of Business Administration with a General Business Specialization
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing Specialization

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American National University

  • Master of Business Administration
  • Business Administration Management - Associate
  • Business Administration - Diploma

What is your education level?

Saint Leo University

  • BA: Business Administration - Management
  • BA: Business Administration - Logistics
  • AA: Business Administration

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The Art Institutes

  • Fashion Merchandising (BS)
  • Fashion Merchandising (AAS)
  • Fashion Retailing (C)
  • Fashion Retailing (D)

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Master of Arts in Law - Business
  • Master of Business Administration - Marketing
  • Bachelor of Science in Business
  • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Business

What is your highest level of education completed?

South College

  • Bachelor of Business Administration with a Concentration in Marketing
  • Bachelor of Business Administration
  • Associate of Science in Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?