A Closer Look At... IMPORT MERCHANDISING
As crucial to a fashion business as the Retail Merchandiser, the Import Merchandiser is normally found on the supplier side of fashion – although similar roles can also be found within the Head Office team within Buying, Product Development or Sourcing.
As a Fashion Import Merchandiser, you’re the one who will bring all parts of the process together - making sure orders are fulfilled at the right price, to the right spec and within the right time frame. You’re the Account Manager’s right hand person working hand-in-hand with designers, garment technologists and global sources to fulfil customer briefs.
Once a style has been agreed and selected by a buyer, this is when you’ll spring into action; as the go between for the buyer and the factories, you will place the order with the correct source, negotiate prices and manage the bulk production process from initial placement of order through to final delivery. Once it’s been placed, you will manage the order – you’ll progress chase, to ensure key critical path dates are met as well as keeping your buyers updated from start to finish. You’ll also be responsible for approving lab dips and strike offs (in other words ensuring colours match up to the original samples) and wash care labelling as well as making sure the factories have all the relevant information required to fulfil the order.
Key competencies required for the role… your organisational ability will shine and you’ll have an eye for detail – after all one small error could end up costing your company. You’ll also need advanced Excel knowledge and an aptitude for in house stock systems as you’ll be keeping the critical path updated (so your co team know exactly what progress has been made).
You’ll enjoy negotiating plus you’ll be an effective communicator, both written and verbal (as you’ll be working closely with suppliers in the Far East and beyond!) And eventually you’ll play an active part in face-to-face customer meetings with buyers and may get to visit the factories you’ve built strong bonds with – and get to see your orders become a reality first hand.
Languages can be sought after as an Import Merchandiser so if you can speak Mandarin, Cantonese or a second European language as well as English, this can push you ahead of the fashion pack.
So how do you become an Import Merchandiser?
Most Import Merchandisers enter the industry with a fashion related degree but it’s not the hard fast rule – if you have an alternative degree, good admin / IT ability and a strong interest in fashion, this too will set you in good stead.
So how can managing a critical path develop your career path? Good solid experience can see you progress into senior and management roles, and eventually running your own accounts or heading up a team as an Account Manager. You can also use your foundation experience to move into buying, sourcing or product development as there’s shared synergy within all three of these disciplines.
Finally, here’s what you can expect in terms of financial reward; -
Junior or Assistant Import Merchandiser £15,000 to £18,000
Import Merchandiser: £18,000 to £25,000
Senior Import Merchandiser: £25,000 to £35,000
Import Merchandising Manager: £32,000 to £40,000
Merchandise Manager: £30,000 +++
Account Manager: £40,000 +++
*Dependant on business size and geographical location