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Merchandising Training Programs and Requirements

Merchandising involves the development and implementation of a sales strategy to promote a retail product. Merchandisers select materials for retail promotion and work with production and distribution teams to balance supply and demand.

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Retail Merchandising Programs

Entry-level careers in the merchandising field generally require a high school diploma. Merchandisers at this level may be responsible for displays at a single store or displays of a particular product at multiple retail outlets.

Courses in the family and consumer sciences and an undergraduate degree in merchandising or marketing allow students to advance their careers in merchandising management. Retail sales and merchandising experience is preferred for higher-level careers in merchandising.

Formal Education

Merchandising training is available at a multitude of 2-year and 4-year schools. Undergraduate degree programs provide training in sales and merchandising, consumer merchandising or merchandise marketing. Bachelor's degree students majoring in merchandising commonly minor or double major in business administration. Graduate programs focus upon training in higher-level management and leadership skills.

Associate of Applied Science Programs

Graduates of associate-level programs in merchandising can qualify as candidates for entry-level positions in retail management, sales and visual merchandising. The 2-year programs incorporate general education requirements and courses in sales presentations, buying, pricing, trend analysis and merchandise allocations, among other areas.

Bachelor of Science Programs

Baccalaureate programs in merchandising often provide students with the opportunity to focus on a specific area, such as fashion, electronics or home furnishings. Students in undergraduate degree programs take courses in brand and product placement, market research, promotion, sales, merchandising technology, e-merchandising, consumer behavior and entrepreneurship. Graduates are prepared for more advanced positions, such as a merchandising specialist for an international company or buyer for a retail franchise.

Master of Science Programs

Executives and merchandising department directors often complete a master's degree in merchandising, which covers business and leadership strategies in addition to fundamental merchandising training. A thesis is usually required, and students conduct research on a wide range of merchandising topics, including product conception, resource management and information exchange technologies. Many master's programs are available in distance-learning formats.

Job Experience

Internships are usually required for bachelor's and master's programs, and provide students with real-world training that positions them for career entry at a more advanced level. Internees shadow merchandising specialists, who arrange product promotions on-site and serve as liaisons among companies, stores and other staff members. Students may also intern at specialty firms, such as fashion or retail merchandisers.

Workshops and Seminars

Professional expos and conventions, sponsored by professional organizations, are common for merchandisers at the international, domestic and regional levels. Generally, updates are provided on current economic conditions and new developments. Seminars may focus on e-commerce and its impacts.

Professional Development

Numerous professional organizations provide career development opportunities for merchandising professionals. A wide range of specializations exist in the field, and an organization exists for many of them. Some of the larger entities are the National Associate of General Merchandise Representatives, the National Association for Retail Merchandising Services and the International Textile and Apparel Association.

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