As its name suggests, fashion merchandising lies at the intersection of fashion and business. As professionals, merchandisers turn concepts into fashion products and presentations for brands, maximizing their competitive edge with visual marketing techniques.
There is a strong design element to this job, always filtered through business priorities. Merchandisers may organize stocking and presentation of products in stores and window displays. In some positions, they must know the steps of apparel construction, including methods of basic tailoring and clothing alterations, textile manipulation, and complex color, pattern and texture coordination.
As marketing professionals, merchandisers identify and predict fashion trends, direct the launch of product lines, and help manage retail stores and boutiques. They attend fashion shows and expos, maintain connections with vendors, create marketing campaigns, develop buyer personas, and analyze consumer trends to grow sales. They are experts in the complex relationships that link brands, consumers, products and culture.
As business people, merchandisers shop the competition, conduct extensive market research, stay abreast of consumer trends, and help brands anticipate demand ahead of the sales seasons. They must keep up with hot designers and their signature styles, the biggest players in the industry, and major developments in the global economy.
Fashion merchandising is fairly broad. The discipline encompasses many possible areas of emphasis, from product manufacture and buying to marketing and sales. Work could focus on the retail side of the business or the production side. Merchandisers are employed domestically and in multinational corporations. They may work in mainstream apparel sales or "high fashion." Some don't work in fashion at all, but in related industries like hospitality or home furnishings.
Both fashion and business are incredibly competitive sectors. Fashion merchandising is physically, psychologically and emotionally demanding. Not surprisingly, the highest pay can be had in big cities associated with high fashion, such as New York City and Los Angeles. Fashion merchandisers may be paid an hourly wage, a fixed rate per idea, a salary or commissions on sales. Working conditions and benefits vary by the job. Note that the possible range of earnings is wide.
It's helpful to have or cultivate excellent interpersonal and assertive communication skills in this sector. Merchandisers who are genuinely passionate and devoted to the profession will be most satisfied with this career choice. The ideal fashion merchandiser is energetic, independently motivated, organized, creative and yet analytical, able to efficiently turn abstract concepts into real products that people love.
The National Association of Schools of Art and Design, or NASAD, is responsible for accrediting many high-quality art and design programs in the United States, including those focused specifically on fashion merchandising. The best schools are also commonly recognized by regional groups, such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges.
Fashion merchandisers must be aware of government regulations that apply to garment manufacturing, including materials labeling and marketing claims laws. International merchandisers must also learn transnational rules, tariffs and duties relevant to moving products across national borders. Although fashion merchandisers are not licensed as professionals by U.S. states, they may still need licensure for certain import and export activities.
Merchandising programs are offered at all postsecondary levels of education. It can take between one and six years to complete all coursework, depending on one's educational pathway and career goals.
In some cases, practical experience can serve as a substitute for formal training. For example, some retail facilities offer fashion merchandising training as part of a long-term job offer. It can be difficult, however, to secure these positions without pre-existing connections.
Earning a higher education in this field can open up otherwise inaccessible job opportunities. Combining formal education with extensive experience and networking will enhance employment opportunities. Students should become immersed in the world of fashion to maximize their odds of landing a post-graduation job.
Internships, summer programs, study abroad and other forms of practical training are worthwhile complements to a fashion merchandising degree. Most applicants will need to create a portfolio of their best work and industry experience to present when applying for internships and other practical training opportunities.
Students attest to the value of study abroad programming, which brings them into the daily grind to observe supply chains and global markets in action. Study abroad participants may get a chance to meet international business leaders and government officials. They can learn the ropes of overseas factory management, from quality assurance in shipping to global marketing.
Generally speaking, those with the most credentials, experience and proven industry success will advance quickest in this field. The ability to deploy and creatively incorporate emerging technologies will also make merchandisers more competitive.
Degrees in fashion merchandising are issued with several different names, including Fashion Marketing and Management, Fashion Retailing, and Retail Management. Students might earn, for example, the Associate of Applied Science in Fashion Marketing or the Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising. Many high-caliber merchandising degrees can be earned at vocational art and design schools.
Why earn a degree in fashion merchandising? An associate's or bachelor's degree in this discipline is sometimes used to complement a design degree, especially for those who want to start their own business. A master's degree can qualify one for employment in educational institutions, such as museums, colleges and universities. Students who want to work higher up the ladder should consider earning a master's degree in fashion merchandising or retail management.
While specializations in this field are not standardized, there are plenty of areas of emphasis, many centered around specific job descriptions. These include visual merchandising and visual brand design, fashion forecasting, store design, presentations, purchasing management, marketing, wholesale buying and retail buying.
Visual merchandisers, for example, may work for lifestyle magazines or ad agencies, in television broadcasting or any area in which skilled visual communication is key. Merchandisers may also target segments of the industry focused on buyer demographics, such as men's fashion, women's fashion or sports apparel. There are many possibilities; job titles vary by employer.
We found 197 schools offering fashion merchandising degree programs in the U.S.
|Abilene Christian University||Abilene||TX||4739|
|Ai Miami International University of Art and Design||Miami||FL||997|
|Alexandria Technical College||Alexandria||MN||2192|
|Allan Hancock College||Santa Maria||CA||12110|
|Art Institute of Charlotte||Charlotte||NC||194|
|Art Institute of Colorado||Denver||CO||2090|
|Art Institute of Philadelphia||Philadelphia||PA||2516|
|Art Institute of Seattle||Seattle||WA||2561|
|Austin Community College||Austin||TX||25735|
|Bay State College||Boston||MA||608|
|Berkeley College||West Paterson||NJ||1994|
|Berkeley College||White Plains||NY||615|
|Berkeley College||New York||NY||1640|
|Bowling Green State University - Main Campus||Bowling Green||OH||18096|
|Bradley Academy for the Visual Arts||York||PA||465|
|Brigham Young University||Provo||UT||32554|
|Brookdale Community College||Lincroft||NJ||11552|
|Brooks College||Long Beach||CA||1618|
|California Design College||Los Angeles||CA||279|
|Central Michigan University||Mount Pleasant||MI||26845|
|Central Washington University||Ellensburg||WA||8050|
|Century Community and Technical College||White Bear Lake||MN||6937|
|Chaffey College||Rancho Cucamonga||CA||15220|
|Chicago State University||Chicago||IL||6914|
|City College of San Francisco||San Francisco||CA||39386|
|College of Dupage||Glen Ellyn||IL||28862|
|College of the Sequoias||Visalia||CA||10251|
|Community College of Philadelphia||Philadelphia||PA||15953|
|Community College of Rhode Island||Warwick||RI||15583|
|Cuesta College||San Luis Obispo||CA||9496|
|Dakota County Technical College||Rosemount||MN||3086|
|Davis & Elkins College||Elkins||WV||668|
|Delta College||University Center||MI||9358|
|Delta State University||Cleveland||MS||3875|
|Dixie State College of Utah||Saint George||UT||6350|
|Dominican University||River Forest||IL||2317|
|Draughons Junior College Inc||Nashville||TN||158|
|Eastern Kentucky University||Richmond||KY||13285|
|Eastern Michigan University||Ypsilanti||MI||23561|
|Edmonds Community College||Lynnwood||WA||8094|
|El Paso Community College||El Paso||TX||18001|
|Evergreen Valley College||San Jose||CA||12404|
|Fairmont State University||Fairmont||WV||6496|
|Fashion Careers College||San Diego||CA||90|
|Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising - Los Angeles||Los Angeles||CA||2648|
|Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising - San Diego||San Diego||CA||213|
|Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising - San Francisco||San Francisco||CA||663|
|Fashion Institute of Technology||New York||NY||10813|
|Ferris State University||Big Rapids||MI||9847|
|Fresno City College||Fresno||CA||19351|
|Gateway Community College||New Haven||CT||4157|
|Genesee Community College||Batavia||NY||4521|
|George Fox University||Newberg||OR||2635|
|Grand Rapids Community College||Grand Rapids||MI||13400|
|Greenville Technical College||Greenville||SC||10786|
|Herkimer County Community College||Herkimer||NY||2591|
|Highline Community College||Des Moines||WA||6327|
|Houston Community College System||Houston||TX||40929|
|Houston Training School - South||Houston||TX||284|
|Icm School of Business and Medical Careers||Pittsburgh||PA||675|
|Indiana Business College - Indianapolis||Indianapolis||IN||634|
|Indiana University of Pennsylvania - Main Campus||Indiana||PA||13410|
|International Academy of Design and Technology||Tampa||FL||1325|
|Iowa Western Community College||Council Bluffs||IA||4503|
|John A Logan College||Carterville||IL||7675|
|Johnson & Wales University||Providence||RI||9172|
|Johnson & Wales University - Florida Campus||North Miami||FL||1620|
|Joliet Junior College||Joliet||IL||11334|
|Kent State University - Kent Campus||Kent||OH||21924|
|Laredo Community College||Laredo||TX||7322|
|Lindenwood University||Saint Charles||MO||6056|
|Long Beach City College||Long Beach||CA||20926|
|Los Angeles Trade Technical College||Los Angeles||CA||18164|
|Los Angeles Valley College||Valley Glen||CA||17393|
|Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College||Baton Rouge||LA||31527|
|Macomb Community College||Warren||MI||22001|
|Madison Area Technical College||Madison||WI||14474|
|Mars Hill College||Mars Hill||NC||1219|
|Marymount College of Fordham University||Tarrytown||NY||938|