Fashion merchandising is a very fast-paced and hands-on career. The fashion merchandising career outlook for new and prospective students looks good compared to many other fashion career choices. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the number of jobs in fashion merchandising are going to be stable in the near future. The nature of those jobs may change, because of the influx of couture fashion websites, but there will always be a need for someone with a keen eye and experience on the sales floor in brick-and-mortar establishments.
Salaries vary according to experience and area of expertise. There are certain areas of fashion merchandising that require a certificate, associates or bachelor’s degree. Most jobs that once required only on-the-job-training are now looking for merchandisers with previous experience and schooling. Making portfolios and landing internships while in school are still two of the best ways to break into this field. Working in retail is also good experience- many high-end chain stores will allow you to create real displays that you can use in your portfolio later on.
Visual merchandisers create clothing displays for stores. This includes front window displays, key inside setups and even website content creation. Traditionally, this is the level in which many fashion merchandisers have started. The pay is not as good as some other opportunities (median salary is around $42,000 U.S. dollars per year), but this position allows for ample networking and portfolio design.
There are 4 levels to being a regular fashion merchandise buyer: assistant, senior assistant, buyer, and senior buyer. The pay ranges go up in a linear fashion, with the median salary of a buyer’s assistant being $41,600 U.S. dollars per year and the median salary of a senior buyer being $100,000 U.S. dollars per year. The time it takes to move up the ladder is normally reliant on personal qualifications and the availability of new jobs, but motivated candidates can expect to move up one rank every two to five years.
Because of the highly competitive nature of the fashion design field, most companies will prefer to hire from within. People with goals of being a specific position at a specific company would be well advised to work from the bottom up, and learn the company’s strategy and survival systems. This information will become more and more valuable to you as you see your chosen company evolve with new changes. This also introduces you to all the levels of the company’s sales teams, which is vital when you move up to buyer and senior buyer positions and are employed with making major decisions.
The fashion merchandiser career outlook is much better than many of the other artistic and business opportunities around. While the work is normally very fast-paced, with new items and designers coming into style every season or more often, it can be very satisfying for someone with an interest in the field. Research the position and company you would like to pursue while in school and create your portfolio specific to their company’s aesthetic.