The Merchandiser Role and Responsibilities

The merchandiser is responsible for particular lines of merchandise. For example, in a department store, there may be merchandisers for menswear, women’s wear, children’s wear etc. the basic duties of the merchandiser can be divided into four areas: planning, directing, co-coordinating and controlling.


Though the merchandisers may not be directly involved in the actual purchase of merchandise, they formulate the policies for the areas in which they are responsible. Forecasting sales for the forthcoming budget period is required and this involves estimating consumer demand and the impact of changes in the retail environment. The sales forecasts are then translated into budgets to help the buyers work within the financial guidelines.


Guiding and training buyers as and when the need arises is also function of the merchandiser. Many a times, the buyers have to be guided to take additional markdowns for products which may not be doing to well in the stores. Inspiring commitment and performance in the part of the buyers is necessary.


Usually, merchandise managers supervise the work of more than one buyer, hence they need to coordinate the buying effort in terms of how well it fits in with the store image and with the other products being bought by other buyers.


Assessing not only the merchandise performance, but also the buyer’s performance is part of the merchandise manager’s job. Buying performance may be evaluated on the basis of net sales maintained mark up percentages, mark down percentages, gross margin percentages and stock turn. This is necessary to provide control and maintain high performance results.

As a key aspect of merchandising involves selection of merchandise or products to be sold in the retail store, the job of the merchandiser also involves visits to suppliers or manufacturers of select goods. This is likely to involve working closely with retail buyers. They negotiate a price, order the goods, agree on a delivery date, complete all the necessary paperwork, and keep in touch with suppliers to make sure that the goods arrive on time.

Merchandisers work closely with the visual display staff and department managers to decide how goods should be displayed to best attract customers’ attention. This might involve planning and setting up sales promotions and advertising campaign. In some organizations, this is a separate role carried out by a visual merchandiser.

Merchandiser may also travel to different stores to actually check the response to various items in the merchandise. To enjoy working as a merchandiser, it is essential that the individual has a mathematical ability to work out budgets and understand sales figures. He/she should be able to understand what the customer wants and translate that into specific products. The ability to work in a team is also essential, as the merchandiser would have a team of buyers reporting to him / her.

Many retail organizations also have a Divisional Merchandise Manager (DMM) or similar position, wherein the person would be responsible for merchandising activities for particular liens of merchandise. For example, the children’s wear DMM supervises those buyers who purchase merchandise such as baby clothes, clothes for new born, clothes for boys, clothes for girls and accessories.

Typically, the role of a divisional merchandise manager, immaterial of the size of the retail organization, would involve the following functions:

1) Forecasting sales for the forthcoming budget period: This involves estimating consumer demand and the impact of changes in the retail environment.
2) Translating the sales forecast into inventory levels in terms of rupees. To do this effectively, the DMM needs to understands and provide for the inventory levels that would be needed to achieve of sales
3) Inspiring commitment and performance on the part of the merchandisers and buyers: Typically, as divisional merchandise managers are senior within the organization, it is believed that they can guide the merchandisers in terms of vendor selection, merchandise lines that can be developed and future trends.
4) Assessing not only the merchandise performance but also the buyer’s performance in order to provide control and maintain high performance results.

The DMM may not get involved in many day to day merchandise management problems and is more likely to be involved with quarterly, seasonal or annual planning, budgeting and controlling of merchandising activities.