fashion merchandising

What is a Fashion Merchandiser? (And How Do I Become One?)

If you’ve found yourself wanting to enter the fashion industry, but designing is just not for you…

Then, I’m here to tell you that there’s SO MANY more opportunities in fashion outside of designing.

One of these is working as a fashion merchandiser. 

But since merchandising is a role found in many other industries, there are some misconceptions on what working as a fashion merchandiser actually is.

So, in this article, I’ll tell you everything I know about fashion merchandising, from what the role is all about, to clarifying common misconceptions on the job, and guiding you on how you can become one. We’ll also explore freelancing possibilities and just how much money you can make as a fashion merchandiser (with actual $$ figures).

Let’s start!

Why am I qualified to write about this stuff? In my 15 years of experience in the fashion industry, I’ve journeyed from being an in-house designer, starting my own brand (yep!), to growing my freelance career to $100,000+. Now, with all the knowledge I’ve learned along the way, I want to help fashion designers (and PDs, TDs, etc.) like you make it in the industry.

Table Of Contents

What is Fashion Merchandising?

Fashion merchandising is the behind-the-scenes work that brings fashion from the drawing board to clothing store racks. It’s the process of understanding what people want to wear and making sure that those preferences align with what designers are creating.

It includes everything from studying trends, predicting what customers will like, making decisions about what clothes should be made, and how much they should cost.

I like to think of it like a high level design role. A fashion merchandiser isn’t designing the individual garments in as much detail as a designer is, but rather designing the collection as a whole. Should it include 2 sweaters, 1 jacket, 1 pants, and 4 tees? Should a dress be part of that assortment too?

What Does a Fashion Merchandiser Do?

Fashion merchandisers act as the middle person between the creative designers and the fashion brand’s customers. Merchandisers are part fashion experts and part business people, helping bring new designs to the market in a way that makes both designers and shoppers happy.

Here’s a list of responsibilities that fashion merchandisers work on:

  • Market Research: Fashion merchandisers dive deep into market trends, analyzing what people are loving, wearing, and talking about. 
  • Trend Analysis: Finding future ‘it’ items before they become mainstream is a big part of this job. To stay ahead of trends, fashion merchandisers use market research, trend forecasts, sales data, and more to anticipate what customers will want seasons ahead.
  • Product Selection: This involves choosing fabrics, colors, and styles that align with both the brand’s identity and current market demands.
  • Product Development: Fashion merchandisers also play an integral role in product development. From working closely with designers, deciding which designs will be produced, to collaborating with manufacturers. So, you can still expect yourself to be included in design-related meetings as a fashion merchandiser!
  • Pricing Strategy: Merchandisers determine the right price for each product, balancing production costs, competitor pricing, and what customers are willing to pay – all while maintaining profit margins.
  • Inventory Management: They track stock levels, ensuring there’s enough to meet demand without overstocking.
  • Promotions and Marketing: Fashion merchandisers collaborate with marketing teams, devising strategies to promote products. This could include fashion shows, social media campaigns, or collaborations.

Common Misconceptions on Fashion Merchandising

Fashion merchandising, visual merchandising, and fashion buying – these roles often get tossed around in the same bin, but the reality is that they all play distinct roles in the industry. That said, these three roles often collaborate closely to make sure that the fashion brand’s products sell well.

Fashion Merchandiser vs Visual Merchandiser

If you’ve walked in a store with a jaw dropping display – visual merchandisers are the creative experts behind those. They design store layouts, arrange products, and utilize creative techniques to create visually engaging displays. Their primary focus is on presentation and aesthetics, making products visually enticing and enhancing the overall shopping experience. 

So while both work closely together to create a seamless shopping experience – fashion merchandisers concentrate on the strategic management of products, visual merchandisers enhance the brand’s visual identity through beautiful displays.

Fashion Merchandiser vs Fashion Buyer

The line between fashion buyers and fashion merchandisers may seem blurry because they both deal with product selection and analyzing market trends. 

To clarify the divide between the two jobs – a fashion buyer‘s role is more on the front end, primarily focusing on sourcing and pitching products based on trend forecasts. They negotiate deals and make purchases. On the other hand, fashion merchandisers work on overall product strategy, including selecting products, determining how best to sell them, right down to pricing decisions.

Pro Tip: Fashion brands use the term fashion merchandiser and fashion buyer interchangeably, so be sure to read the job description when you’re applying for the role. The good thing is that because the roles overlap, having experience on either gives you enough background to apply to both.

In summary – while all three roles are interconnected and collaborate closely, they have distinct areas of focus. Fashion merchandisers handle the overall management and strategy of fashion products, visual merchandisers focus on creating appealing product displays, and fashion buyers specialize in selecting products upfront. 

How Do I Get a Job as a Fashion Merchandiser?

Becoming a fashion merchandiser typically requires a combination of education and experience. Many of those aspiring to get fashion merchandising jobs pursue a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising, marketing, business, or a related field. 

But of course, that’s just the start.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you land a fashion merchandising job:

  1. Obtain a Relevant Degree: Pursue a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising or a related field. 
  2. Gain Practical Experience: If a degree is not a possible option, apply to internships, part-time jobs, or freelance opportunities within fashion companies, retailers, or related businesses. 
  3. Network Within the Industry: Attend fashion shows, trade shows, and networking events. These events are excellent opportunities to meet professionals in the field, learn about job openings, and make valuable connections.
  4. Use Job Search Platforms: Explore job search websites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and freelancing websites such as Upwork to look for fashion merchandiser positions. 
  5. Research Companies: Identify fashion brands, retailers, and companies you’d love to work for and don’t be afraid to give it a shot.
  6. Stay Updated with Trends: The fashion industry evolves rapidly and fashion merchandisers should be one of the firsts to catch onto these trends. Stay current with fashion trends, consumer behavior, and industry news.
how to be a fashion merchandiser

If you need a dash of motivation, go ahead and listen to my podcast with Shelby Collins, where we talk about her journey in the fashion industry coming up to becoming a fashion merchandiser. In our talk, Shelby also shares some great tips on how to build your fashion merchandising career. So make sure to jot down some notes!

Can I Become a Fashion Merchandiser without a Degree?

Can you become a fashion merchandiser without a degree? Absolutely!

In this field, having a degree is a great start, but it’s not the only way in. Real-life experience counts big time, even if it’s not directly related to fashion.

And if going back to uni isn’t your thing, you can still kick-start your journey. Look for fashion merchandising internships or short courses to get hands-on experience. Or, consider working in retail – starting from the bottom gives you a solid understanding of how things work.

Fashion Merchandiser Job Description Example

This is an example of how you would expect a typical job description to look like including important fashion merchandiser skills.

Job Description:

As a Fashion Merchandiser at [Company Name], you will play a pivotal role in curating our product assortments and ensuring a seamless shopping experience for our customers. You will collaborate closely with designers, buyers, and marketing teams to create appealing and marketable collections. Your analytical skills will be crucial in interpreting market trends and consumer behavior to make strategic merchandising decisions.


  • Analyze market trends, consumer preferences, and sales data to identify opportunities and risks.
  • Collaborate with designers and buyers to curate product assortments that align with the brand’s identity and market demands.
  • Develop pricing strategies that balance profitability with competitive pricing in the market.
  • Manage inventory levels, ensuring products are stocked appropriately to meet customer demand without overstocking or shortages.
  • Conduct regular competitor analysis to stay ahead of industry trends and market competition.
  • Collaborate with marketing teams to plan and execute promotions and events, maximizing product visibility and sales.
  • Provide insights and recommendations to optimize product performance and enhance customer satisfaction.


  • Bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising, Marketing, Business, or related field.
  • Proven work experience as a fashion or retail merchandiser, or related roles.
  • Strong analytical skills with the ability to interpret sales data and market trends.
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills.
  • Creativity and a keen eye for fashion trends and aesthetics.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite and merchandising software/tools.
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced and collaborative team environment.

Can I Work as a Freelance Fashion Merchandiser

Just like any role in fashion (freelance fashion designertechnical designer, etc.), fashion merchandising can totally be done freelance and remotely. 

And if you’re thinking that there are no opportunities out there, you can check platforms like Upwork that often have listings for freelance fashion merchandisers who prefer remote work arrangements over office settings. (And here’s how to send a great UpWork cover letter!)

How Much Money Does a Fashion Merchandiser Make?

While salary ranges are not always set in stone, I’m here to give you actual dollar figures and share how much fashion merchandisers working in house vs my freelance fashion merchandiser/ fashion designer grads from FAST make. 

Based on Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter, fashion merchandisers working in the USA can earn between $45,662 to $53,200 annually and at an average of $21.88 to $25.49 hourly. 

And then depending on bonuses and other monetary benefits they might receive, it can vary between $33,000 to $202,000. While there is “data” out there that says merchandisers can make $202k, that is going to be a rare, RARE, RARE(!!!) scenario, and likely only if you’re in a director level or higher!

(If you want to know more about industry ranges in fashion, you can head over to my article talking all about which fashion industry jobs pay well).

Working as a freelance merchandiser can make you MORE money while working remotely at the comfort of your own home. 

Side Note: Most of the time, fashion freelancers can find themselves wearing more hats than when working directly as an employee for a fashion brand. I know many freelance “fashion designers” who are also working a merchandising role (amongst other tasks). So, keep that in mind if you’re interested in exploring freelancing full time.

If you’re curious to see if this is ACTUALLY possible, here’s a list of my FAST graduates who are raking up $$$ working freelance as fashion designers slash merchandisers.

First off – Amy Barnhart who now makes 1.5x per hour than her previous salary working in house.

Krystal Lewis who’s on track to making a whopping $300k yearly. You can check Krystal’s website here.

And Connie who was able to transform her side hustle into a design agency in just over 18 months of working freelance (and in 2022, earned $1,005,300 – yes, that is over one million dollars).

As the figures show, freelancing in fashion can earn you MORE but with less stress and more time for yourself.

So if you’re interested in exploring the fashion industry and its many opportunities, don’t be afraid to get your foot out there!

A great place to start is with my guide to becoming a freelance fashion designer (it’s free!).


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