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What is an Apparel Merchandiser?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated Feb 17, 2024
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An apparel merchandiser, also known as a fashion merchandiser, is the person who conceives and implements merchandising displays in retail environments focused on the sales of clothing and accessories. She may dress mannequins, create fashion-focused scenes in store windows and design promotional graphics for in-store promotions.

This position normally involves much more than merchandising. An apparel merchandiser is often the pulse of the retail environment, the person depended upon to predict fashion trends and incorporate her vision into the store’s inventory. A large part of her job is to keep herself educated on the latest fashion fads and styles around the world and make sure her store is the first to carry cutting-edge clothing and accessories.

When new inventory is being chosen, the apparel merchandiser is commonly consulted. She provides input on ordering fabrics, colors, sizes and styles based on her analysis of what is in vogue, coupled with style trends in local demographics. Every time the season changes, she is relied upon to have the latest information on what is fashionable and what will bring in the highest revenues.

As her reputation for successful fashion predictions grows, she is normally given increased responsibilities. These often include providing input on the overall appearance of the store, ways to market and sell slow-moving inventory and adding or removing certain retail lines or designers. She may also be asked to assist in tracking profits and losses or confer with management on personnel matters.

Aside from working in a retail store, apparel merchandisers regularly find lucrative careers in fashion consulting firms, import and export companies or working for a beauty or fashion magazine. They may also find employment in related industries, such as textile and fabric purchasing or apparel design and production. Many professional window dressers and personal fashion consultants have backgrounds in apparel merchandising.

A keen eye for spotting the next fashion craze is imperative to be successful in this position, but expertise in more practical areas is also required. Good math skills, organizational abilities and analytical acumen are highly-valued traits. The ability to effectively communicate with executives, designers and retail personnel is essential for the job.

To be hired as an entry-level apparel merchandiser, a two-year associate’s degree in fashion merchandising is recommended. To enhance career advancement opportunities, a bachelor’s degree in marketing, apparel production, or fashion design is normally required. Experience working in any retail environment is a plus, especially if the job involved apparel or accessory sales. A significant number of people hired into retail management trainee programs choose to pursue careers in apparel merchandising.

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Discussion Comments
By anon952910 — On May 23, 2014

I want to lead my life as a merchandiser, and I also want to develop my career as a merchandiser. Now what can I do?

By kylee07drg — On May 30, 2012

I think I would really enjoy the design aspect of an apparel merchandiser job. I’ve always wondered who got to dress the mannequins and design the clothing displays, because I would have loved to do that.

I am a graphic designer, and I design advertisements. If I ever decide to pursue a career in fashion, I’m sure my skills and experience in this area would benefit me. I could design promotional materials with no problem whatsoever, and I would really enjoy this part of the job, as well.

The only thing I would not be so crazy about is taking the fall if items I ordered didn’t sell. It might be no fault of my own, but as a merchandiser, I would have to take the blame.

By wavy58 — On May 29, 2012

@seag47 - I would imagine that the large chains do pick their own merchandisers and fly them out to different locations. However, it can be fairly easy to find a job in apparel merchandising with a smaller store, if you have the skills and the education.

My cousin got a bachelor’s degree in art with an emphasis in marketing, and then she got her two-year degree in fashion merchandising. She worked part-time at a local clothing store during college, and once she graduated, the owner handed over the merchandising duties to her.

She enjoyed getting to decide what garments would be sold in the store. She took pride in designing the layout of the clothing in the store, and she was successful in her job.

By seag47 — On May 28, 2012

An apparel merchandising career sounds fascinating! This seems like the type of job that would be plentiful in large cities like L.A. and New York, where fashion is king. That’s probably where a lot of prospective apparel merchandisers move to after graduation in hopes of landing their dream jobs.

I wonder how hard it is for apparel merchandisers to find work in smaller cities? I also wonder if big department store chains employ just a few merchandisers and send them out to each store?

Most chain stores tend to keep the same look throughout. Hiring different merchandisers for each store would probably disrupt the cohesiveness.

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