Thinking about a Career as a Merchandise Planner? Excel’s Retail Head Office Consultant Sarah Hurley takes you through everything you need to know…

Merchandise Planning is a relatively new function within Irish buying offices but is just as exciting, fast-paced and rewarding a career as Retail Buying. Merchandise Planners are high in demand. They have a unique skillset and niche expertise and are rewarded with competitive salaries and benefits, a broad career path and numerous choices and plentiful job opportunities with the biggest retailers.

What is a Merchandise Planner?

Merchandise Planners operate a crucial function within a retail Head Office. They work side by side with Buyers to plan, execute and deliver ranges.

What do they do?

People often explain merchandise planning as getting the right merchandise, in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities at the right price to maximise sales and to minimise markdown. With the buyer, they will look at past performance and future trends, to predict what items will sell best and plan accordingly.

Right Merchandise – Styles, brands, colours, sizes

Right Place – Which store, depending on their budget and location

Right Time – Having merchandise in stores at the right time in the season i.e. ready for Christmas or ‘Back to School’

Right Quantities – Enough for the stores to make their budgets but not have to markdown stock at the end of the season

The Right Price £££– Those that will attract customers in over the competition yet generate a reasonable return on investment for the retailer i.e. profit

What do you need?

Merchandise Planners are in demand because they have a unique blend of skills-

Analytical skills – enjoy analysing data and using this to identify trends and potential risks and opportunities

Communication skills – Must be able to communicate this data and trends to people and build great relationships with suppliers and in-store teams.

Quick thinking– Retail is incredibly fast-paced and merchandise planners need to be quick thinking to spot trends, evaluate large amounts of data and make sound decisions. Things can change very quickly and there are always deadlines to meet.

Commercial Awareness – you need to understand what is going on in the marketplace, your competitors and be able to spot gaps and opportunities

How do you get started?

Most Merchandise Planners come from either a fashion buying & merchandising course or a business/finance related degree and have a mix of both retail and office based experience. Graduates will start their careers as an Allocator or Assistant Merchandiser and work their way up. Opportunities exist within the fashion and non-fashion retail and open up a broad and varied career path.