When to introduce a merchandiser into your business

Anna-Louise McDougall
Last Updated:
May 10, 2024
5 min read

No matter the endless ways the fashion retail store continues to evolve, the goal remains the same; sell product, protect margins, and achieve profit growth.

But without a handle on merchandising, brands can fall behind in their growth trajectory and begin to plateau at the peak of their success. 

Many fashion brands and retailers forego the role of the merchandiser during early operations, however, this function is essential to ensuring that stores continue to have the right product in the right quantity, at the right price, at the right time. 

Especially for DTC or social media-based brands that experience exponential gains — even millions of dollars of turnover during the first couple of years — a merchandiser is a necessity as brands are required to maintain and accelerate growth even further in order to succeed. 

Read on to discover why modern fashion businesses should invest in merchandising, and the right time to do so.  

Why is having a merchandiser important?

Known for assortment and category planning, long-term buying strategies, and informing plans on pricing hierarchies, the merchandiser is essentially in charge of the efficiency, productivity, and profitability of your stock.

They are the gatekeepers of your product. 

Having an eagle eye over your assortment planning strategy is vital to ensure your team knows what’s driving cash flow, and how you can keep driving growth and revenue while you manage customer demand.

Through accurate and considered planning, merchandisers can implement their expertise to optimize sales, reduce inventory waste by not over-buying, optimize profit through careful profit margin planning, reduce markdown activity through accurate size quantities, and help reduce out-of-stock scenarios.

Where do businesses get it wrong with merchandisers?

Brands and businesses that have never had a planner find it hard to determine their place within the structure of the team.

The fact is, your team members probably have taken on parts of this role already — if you’re making product decisions for the future, then you’re planning. 

The main blockage for teams is that they’re uncertain of what they want to achieve from the role of the merchandiser.

This may result in the hiring of a junior, as the business cannot justify a senior management investment.

From there, it’s impossible to move the role forward.

The junior might struggle without experience and the correct environment, they can’t influence their team with decisions, and there is no clear result or improvement. 

How big does a business need to be to bring in a merchandiser?

It’s never too early to bring in a fashion merchandiser.

The earlier, the better to start tracking data, understanding analytics, and making informed decisions about your product assortments.

It’s around the 10-12 million turnover mark that Style Arcade CEO Michaela Wessels starts to see the growing pains. 

“At that point, business owners get knocked around by a few things because they don't have the infrastructure and methodology. But because they’ve been so hands-on, they can rally against some of those knocks,” she says. “However, this usually tops out at the 20 million mark. If you let it get that far without planning, you’ll be chasing after it, trying to get back in control.” 

What are the red flags of businesses in need of a merchandiser?

Aged inventory problem? Markdown issues? Profitability loss?

All of these are red flags to indicate planning is missing.

Additionally, without great data sources and/ or lacking the ability to understand the insights is further indication that a merchandiser is needed.  

Having the right stock in the right place, at the right time is the result of planning well — and this starts with getting the right data insights, and creating the right product stories from the jump.

If you’re not making informed decisions around the product and inventory investment, if you’re unsure what your data is telling you, then you can’t expect to continue your growth trajectory.  

How should SMEs introduce merchandising if they don’t have a senior management budget?

Many brands may not have the confidence or resources to introduce merchandising into the business, but with advanced technology surrounding product data — there is another way.

Outsourcing fashion merchandising is a great way to dip your toes into the merchandising world without the risk of investing in a senior full-time role, or hiring an inexperienced junior based on a lower cost.

Instead, outsourcing is the ideal middle ground, allowing brands to gain access to experienced professionals, who will not only create data integrity but help identify revenue opportunities and insights.

By taking on third-party expertise, brands additionally have the flexibility to support internal strategies by choosing specific services that address immediate growing pains.  

If inventory is your number one asset, then consider your merchandising consultant as your asset manager for your inventory. 

Style Arcade recognizes that not every business can integrate a full-time merchandiser, but as the role is key to sustaining brand growth, we’ve introduced a fashion merchandising consulting service. 

Starting with a deep audit and analysis across financial sales and spend planning, categories, sizing, core lines, products, markdowns, and aged stock management, our team of seasoned experts will deliver brands their road map to sales growth and sustainability.

Are you a fashion brand on the cusp of your next growth stage?

Find out more or chat to the Style Arcade team to see if merchandise consulting could be your next best move.

Image Credit: Cereal

Fashion Merchandising
Assortment Planning
Subscribe to Style Arcade
Arrow pointing north-east