July 28, 2016
Designer labels. Store window displays. Trendy textiles. They drive the business of fashion, which is a critical driver of the U.S. economy - more so than many think. What appears to be art has a lot of science behind it. That's fashion merchandising. What is fashion merchandising exactly? It's a dynamic field that requires skilled managers to showcase the latest products and trends to an increasingly fashion-conscious buying public. An BS in Fashion Merchandising Management can help you gain a firm grasp on fashion marketing, business strategy, merchandising and more.
Compensation analysis site Payscale.com describes fashion merchandising as the buying, selling and marketing of the fashion industry, as opposed to areas of creation and design. Fashion merchandisers may work within retail operations as purchasing agents who select product lines and create promotions to enhance both brand and market share. Others work directly for designers and fashion labels placing products in stores, finding shelf space, and managing marketing and promotions. Some get a college degree in fashion merchandising to prepare for opening their own store, which allows complete control over one's career in fashion.
Simply put, fashion merchandising is one part art, one part business or, as one source puts it, an eye for style meets a head for business. This dynamic combination makes every day on the job different than the last. Here's why:
Everything from beer sales to movie lines to vegetable gardens have been proffered as economic predictors. While most find these theories too easy, Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, stands behind the correlation between men's underwear sales and good and bad economic times. "Sales rose steadily in normal times, the theory went, but tended to dip when men had less money, or were trying to cut back on their spending," reported the New York Times on Greenspan's hypothesis. Underwear as bellwether? Yes, said the article. "The last thing you're going to do when you're short on cash is go and replace your underwear." This illustrates how closely fashion and the economy can be linked.
Fashion decisions, made by fashion merchandising experts, are felt on Wall Street daily. Census.gov releases a monthly report on retail sales as a reflection of how willingly consumers are to open their wallets. This, in turn, tells economists how confident the country is in their jobs and with their earning potential. Meanwhile, financial watchdogs like CNBC report on surges and drops in retail receipts. Why? When retailers report increases or declines in sales, year-end profit forecasts are adjusted. This impacts stock prices, which directly impacts the financial security of a company and its employees.
Could a window display or a retail buyer's decision really have this kind of clout? Indeed it can.
Fashion merchandising is a critical building block of a brand. Forbes discusses the increasing importance of branding and consumers' increased expectations of products and services. Brands will need to work hard to differentiate and stand for something meaningful, emotional, and important to consumers.
What is fashion merchandising's role in establishing brand differentiators? Fashion merchandisers are responsible for how a brand is presented to the public - in stores and online. Online is new terrain for the fashion merchandiser. According the Forbes article, the consumer will use five or more online sources to facilitate one actual purchase decision, reducing reliance on traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. A solid fashion merchandising degree program explores branding from all these angles.
Shaundreka Hearne came to Southern New Hampshire University's online BS in Fashion Merchandising Management program enthusiastic about getting her own idea branded properly and off the ground. Hearne said her degree gave her the confidence she needed to launch her brand and get noticed. The coursework in business law was most helpful to Hearne, who said, "It alleviated a lot of fear. As a startup, so many things can be confusing and to have the proper knowledge ... is comforting."
Fashion merchandisers can also influence or even change the way a population feels about itself and the world around them. Newsweek cites research connecting what we buy to our moods. It can all start with an unintentional stroll past a store window. A burst of color and flattering shapes, the article's author observed, can change our state of mind.
Industry pulse-taker Best Window Displays (BWD) chronicles how fashion merchandisers prompt feelings - happy, healthy, hungry, charitable, chilly, etc. - in an effort to make the sale. Perhaps the most celebrated example is of the department store holiday window. People travel to see them and take pictures of them, almost without realizing their intent to win over customers.
Storefronts can tell stories, make political statements, provide social commentary, provide an escape - whatever it takes to engage customers.
What is fashion merchandising for the student pursuing formal training in a degree program? It can be a ticket into a rewarding job and an extra edge when competing for a job.
Choose an associate-level degree, like an AS in Fashion Merchandising and combine your passion for trend watching and style with a business-focused education that will be an asset in many fashion-related industries. Te associate of science degree program focuses on the application of retailing and fashion merchandising theory and includes courses in design and color theory, textiles, retailing and marketing.
With an AS degree, you'll be prepared for entry-level careers in buying, visual merchandising, sales and vendor relations in a retail or wholesale setting. Graduates of the program are able to:
The associate in fashion merchandising degree online is exactly what Kerry Fegan needed to jump-start her career. "After working at Macy's part time for some extra holiday money, I knew that I really liked retail. ... Not so much the selling, but the planning, merchandising and marketing aspects," Fegan said.
What began as a temporary, seasonal position soon became permanent and full-time. This was invaluable on-the-job training - in fact, Monster.com recommends this as a worthwhile way to prove your motivation and competency to an employer - but she knew that if she wanted to continue to rise within the company, she'd need to further her education. Her boss suggested a fashion merchandising degree from an accredited college.
A bachelor's degree is another smart way to launch your fashion-merchandising career and is a necessary asset when applying for certain jobs. A BS in Fashion Merchandising Management is designed to train the eye of those who aspire to sell style to a fashion-conscious public.
You'll develop a timeless sense of style and gain a firm grasp of business strategy. You'll study fashion marketing, color and textile theory, consumer behavior and retail operations, planning and management. You'll also learn how to identify what styles will sell and how to present visual cues that prompt consumers to engage and buy.
You'll also gain valuable real-world experience by completing a fashion merchandising internship that gives you a concrete opportunity to show employers the value you can bring to their business.
There are specific outcomes of the online program include learning how to:
Armed with this impressive range of fashion merchandising expertise, you are ready to take on the Madison Avenues and Main Streets of the world.
The program also allows you to study from all corners of the world. Student Raquel Hunter lives in Italy with her husband, an airman with the United States Air Force. "It has always been a dream of mine to work beside some of the top designers in the world and maybe even to become one myself one day. While teaching myself the basics of sewing and tailoring, I decided I wanted to learn the business side of fashion, as well," said Hunter.
Finding a school that let her obtain a bachelor's in fashion merchandising and management online from thousands of miles away and transfer credits from the fashion merchandising program she began at a local college was hard to find - until she found SNHU. "Since joining the online program, I feel more confident in reaching my goals," Hunter said. She added, "It's great that I can still work toward my degree even while being on the other side of the globe."
What is fashion merchandising on a day-to-day basis? With an AS or BS degree in hand, you can expect to qualify for most management-level jobs in the retail industry. The more advanced your degree, the greater the probability that you'll advance quickly or enter an organization at a higher level.
Here are some commonly held job titles for graduates from fashion merchandising colleges and programs:
Merchandising managers generally oversee all the retail functions for clothing or shoe departments within a store. Duties include creating merchandising displays, coordinating the workflow and activities of retail employees, and ensuring an attractive appearance for the retail store.
Marketing representatives promote a company's products to the identified target markets. Rather than managing the display and workflow of employees and products, marketing representatives conduct presentation and sales activities to market a brand or series of brands to potential customers/clients.
Fashion buyers are responsible for selecting products and negotiating with product vendors on behalf of retail companies. Fashion buyers understand the trends in the fashion industry and identify products that will drive sales, reinforce brand attributes and increase the competitive edge of companies.
Merchandising consultants oversee the sales and marketing efforts of companies. They execute merchandising plans according to established revenue goals. They research and establish consumer offers that appeal to various target markets, particularly when sales are lagging.
Fashion merchandising can be found in every corner of the world - from fashion capitals like New York and Milan to local boutiques and today's online pop-up shops. As such, the demand for professionals with associate and bachelor's degrees in fashion merchandising is rising. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that people who work in retail careers can expect job growth of about 10 percent through 2022. However, those numbers relate to the retail industry at large, not just people in fashion merchandising jobs.
Those with fashion merchandising degrees are well positioned to pursue any number of paths - as buyers, visual merchandisers, sales representatives, vendor relations specialists, store and product planners, and sales managers - for a spectrum of name-brand companies. SNHU students and alumni, for example, have worked for a number of very well-known companies, including Coach, Timberland, Reebok International, Gap Inc., Kenneth Cole, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Jessica McClintock.
Annual incomes range based on geography and level of responsibility. One source quotes the Bureau of Labor Statistics as stating that, in 2015, sales managers of clothing stores earn a median annual salary of $74,520; and wholesale and retail buyers earn a median salary of $58,060. For a more detailed look at the salaries - as well as hourly wages - you can expect to find by city and job title, consult websites like GlassDoor.com.
Another question you may have is about getting a fashion merchandising degree is, "Can I afford it?" Tuition varies widely among fashion merchandising colleges and programs. Factors include public versus private, in-state versus out-of-state, online versus on-campus.
Affordability combined with the flexibility of online learning makes SNHU an ideal choice for those who took a break from college or thought they lacked time to go back and complete their degree, like Lakesha Sheard. "Since I was young, I have always wanted to work in the fashion industry. It has been the one passion of mine that has never changed," Sheard said. But as she got older, she thought it was too late to enter the industry or continue to pursue her lifelong dream of working in the fashion world.
Thanks to her husband's encouragement to follow her heart, she went back to a traditional university in 2012. She soon realized that on-campus coursework wouldn't work with her busy and demanding life as a mother of two.
"It was not possible to take classes in the middle of the day," Sheard said. That's when she found the online bachelor's in fashion merchandising and management degree program. Sheard said, "I couldn't be happier with my choice to finish my degree. My advisor, Joseph, has been awesome every step of the way. He is always available via phone or email." Sheard's GPA of 4.0 reflects her success in the program.
Are you ready to succeed in fashion merchandising? Get more information or apply today.
*Job market data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook is intended to provide insight on occupational opportunities and is not to be construed as a guarantee of salary or job title. SNHU cannot guarantee employment.
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