Want to work in retail? Visual Merchandising jobs could be for you!

Do the wheels in your head start turning every time you think about the beautiful store displays that line the halls of our shopping centres and the techniques that go into making these products look awesome? Merchandising jobs form an important part of the retail industry and, if you are a lover of design, colour and beauty, visual merchandising jobs might be for you.

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Today, we not only take a look at what merchandiser jobs involve, but also take a closer look at what visual merchandising is, what the job itself requires and the qualifications you will need in order to pursue a career as a creatively fun and fabulous visual merchandiser.

So, what exactly is Merchandising?

Merchandising is, very simply, described as the activity regarding both the promotion and the sale of goods and products at retail levels. Visual merchandising jobs are one of the many branches of merchandising.

Merchandising involves various aspects including the techniques used in the display of products, demonstrations, samples and even pricing. Merchandising is basically the practices involved in selling products and goods to retail consumers.

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At an in-store level, these professionals are responsible for displaying the products for sale in store in such a way that it draws the interests of customers, eventually drawing them in and convincing them to make the purchase.

In a commerce setting, a visual merchandiser is responsible for the sale of products in terms of the product’s design, price, packaging and its display. Other aspects of this profession also include when these products are presented to buyers, where these products are placed and how they will be displayed in the retail outlets. When all of these aspects are harmoniously joined, these professionals create a product that interests consumers on a visual level, again convincing them to make the buy.

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What do Merchandising jobs involve?

A merchandiser is not only responsible for ensuring that products appear in our stores, but that there are enough of these products as well. This means that these professionals are involved in forecasting trends (along with the retail outlet’s buying teams), planning the stock that the store will require and then monitoring the product’s performance (or popularity).

Merchandising jobs also involve setting prices (so that retailers can maximise their profits) as well as planning promotions around these products.

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When it comes to merchandiser jobs of this nature, some of your duties and responsibilities will include working with numerous teams (from the buyers to the suppliers), working with the “visual” staff in order to decide how products should be presented and even controlling the levels of stock (according to your data including sales forecasts).

You will also be required to have a good hold over the numbers surrounding specific products – this ranges to include everything from sales forecasts and performance statistics to budget planning and an understanding and awareness of your competitor’s product.

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Merchandisers know that a product has to be the “right” product, available in the correct place at the right time. These products have to be available in the right amounts at a price that suits consumers.

A lot of planning goes into these types of jobs and good analytic and communications skills are a must. Other personality characteristics and skills that will help you in this industry include computer literacy, an understanding of the current retail marketplace and the ability to be as cool as ice in hard and stressful situations and environments.

Visual Merchandising Jobs

Visual merchandising directly involves the creation of in-store displays – like those you see when passing clothing stores or in your local Pick ‘n Pay. More than just this, visual merchandising jobs involve the communication of visual ideas and strategies that help to promote the product itself, a brand or even a service.

This ‘visual display’ does not only happen in store windows – they also happen online and in catalogues. Other types of merchandising jobs – like retail merchandising – involve the amount of stock that should be acquired, where this stock should be placed in the store and how it will be arranged in terms of function. A professional in the ‘visual’ branch of merchandising is a creative, working with the visual impact of products in a store.

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While a retail merchandiser might decide where the best place to display a new product is, a visual merchandiser will be involved in making this product visually appealing to potential buyers. These types of professionals also have the opportunity to specialise in different fields like fashion and home décor.

These type of jobs commonly involve the design and actual preparation of visuals, the sourcing or production of props and other materials required, and doing all of this within the brief set out by the brand (or product manufacturer).

You will be required to work within a budget and have a full understanding and awareness of current trends (like introducing a new coffee brand might be more successful in winter while the release of a new ice tea will be successful during summer times), be it in terms of what is fashionable at the moment or seasonal needs.

Professionals in this field will also have to work with computer design programmes and have regular meetings with various teams and managers in order to discuss various aspects including sales, trends and target markets.

According to PayScale, a Visual Merchandiser earns an average yearly salary of R 97 667, while a fashion merchandiser in South Africa earns an average yearly salary of R 107 700.

The road to becoming a Visual Merchandiser

Depending on the field you would like to specialise in, there are a number of exciting study options available in South Africa. Completing a qualification in the field of your interest (like a degree in Fashion for example), can help you get a foot in the door as an assistant in the merchandising industry.

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The Durban University of Technology (DUT) offers a three year National Diploma in Fashion. This programme is designed to prepare you for various roles within different fashion related fields – from the textile industry, to jobs in retail environments. If you love fashion, this programme is a great choice. You will have the opportunity to learn various skills enabling you to fill positions in the form of an assistant designer or an assistant merchandiser.

DUT also allows you to study an additional year to complete your Bachelor of Technology in Fashion.

FEDISA is another study option if you are looking to pursue visual merchandising jobs in fashion. Offering a BA Fashion Degree – accredited by the Department of Higher Education and Training – you will have the opportunity to learn a ton of cool skills in clothing technology, lifestyle, business and visual studies (which include story boarding and visual merchandising).

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If you have a passion for interior design, you can complete your qualification at a number of institutions in South Africa, helping you to gain some of the necessary skills required to pursue a job in this section of the retail industry.

One of the many options available in this field of study is the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). Offering a National Diploma in Interior Design, here you will acquire a number of skills ranging to include retail design, shop fitting, interior design theory and marketing, to name but a few.

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The Cape Peninsula University of Technology also offers a National Diploma in Interior Design. A three year programme, you will have the opportunity to up your skills in the design and construction of furniture, design and design technology, and professional design practices.

Another qualification that can help you in pursuing a career as a visual merchandiser is a BTech in Surface Design. Offered at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, you will first need to complete your National Diploma in Surface Design. This programme aims to prepare students for successful careers in a range of industries including lifestyle design, fashion and interior design.

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The University of Pretoria also offers a BConsumer Science (Clothing: Retail Management) programme. A four year programme, you will be qualified for various positions within the retail industry including visual merchandising, store management and even a fashion buyer.

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Remember that there are numerous accredited tertiary institutions that can help you on your way to becoming a qualified candidate for merchandiser jobs. Be on the lookout for study programmes in the field that most interests you.

Ready to start a fabulously fun career in visual merchandising? Register your CV on Job Mail and apply for visual merchandising jobs that match your unique set of skills. With a range of merchandising jobs listed online, you are sure to find your dream job in no time!

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Annabel Schoeman

SEO Engineer
SEO'er, blogger and lover all things weird, wacky and interesting.

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