Retail merchandising can be studied online at the certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree levels, although these programs aren't especially common. Programs may go by the name of fashion merchandising, fashion marketing, retail management or retailing and consumer science. Occasionally, online master's degree programs in merchandising are also available.
Some programs may be available fully online, but others may require in-person practical training, such as field trips, practicums and internships. These real-world training experiences can help students build their resumes and networking circles. Potential students may want to find out if programs require or offer voluntary internships.
Fashion and Retail Merchandising Certificate
The flexible certificate program is usually composed of 6-8 classes. The certificate can typically be earned in about one year, but students take classes as their schedules permit, which may extend the amount of time necessary for completion.
A high school diploma or GED is usually required for acceptance into the certificate program. Online course delivery requires students to have access to a computer with Internet access.
Certificate courses cover entry-level career skills.
Discussing the role of the retail industry in social, economic and global contexts, the class focuses on recognition of the critical business tools needed by retailers to survive in today's markets. Emphasis is placed on the responsibilities of retail personnel.
The class concentrates on theories of and techniques to promote customer satisfaction and loyalty. Case studies examine companies known for excellent customer service. Customer complaints, ethics and problem resolution strategies are discussed.
Associate's Degree in Fashion and Retail Merchandising
Students can earn their Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree in about 18-24 months of full-time online study. Classes are designed to be flexible, allowing the student to continue to work while going to school.
A high school diploma or GED is required for acceptance into the associate program. Because classes are taught online, a computer with Internet access is required.
An associate degree typically includes general education courses in communications and math which supplement the business and marketing major requirements
Retail Merchandise Management
Students learn theories and concepts of selling retail merchandise. Economic and financial topics, such as profit planning, supply and demand, buying plans and budgeting the operating costs of retail facilities are discussed. A study of types of retail spaces, including their layouts, organizational patterns and location choices is also included in the course.
This course focuses on marketing as it relates to the U.S. economy, and relates general marketing principles to the retail industry. Students will learn the importance of appropriately promoting, pricing, planning and distributing retail goods and services.
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Bachelor's Degree in Fashion and Retail Merchandising
Several types of bachelor's degrees are offered, including the Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration (B.A.B.A.) with concentration in retail management. Students with no prior college education generally require at least 3-4 years studying full-time to earn their degree.
A high school diploma or GED is a prerequisite to enroll in the program; some schools may require a minimum high school grade point average. Technical requirements are generally limited to a computer with Internet access for accessing coursework online
At the bachelor's degree level, fashion and retail marketing courses focus on management and personnel rather than customer service. General education courses include many of the same required math and English classes as the associate degree.
In-Store Visual Strategy
The course provides insight into the psychology of visual displays, including multiple strategies and techniques retailers commonly use to appeal to customers. Students examine types of visual displays and learn how they impact the customer, as well as the overall retail environment.
Often included as a capstone course in the curriculum, the class applies knowledge and skills in multiple aspects of retail environment management. Addressing topics and issues in customer service, merchandising, human resources, visual merchandising and other related skills and duties - and examining how all relate to one other - is the end goal of this course.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expected employment to remain strong for retail salespersons. Median hourly wages, including commissions, were $10.47 in May 2015. Without a college degree, advancement is expected to be limited (www.bls.gov).
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, high turnover and growth of retail industries should permit employment to remain strong for retail salespersons, with about 4.6 million jobs held in 2015. Larger businesses typically prefer to hire college graduates for management trainees (www.bls.gov).
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment growth for supervisors of retail sales workers to be 4%, which is slower than average. The median annual wages of first-line supervisors of retail sales workers were $38,310, including commissions, in May 2015. Advancement opportunities include the potential to be promoted into public relations, advertising, marketing and sales management, as well as purchasing agents, buyers or purchasing managers (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Completion of the certificate program prepares students for entry-level careers in the retail or fashion industries. Those who wish to advance their careers may pursue a bachelor's degree in fashion or retail merchandising or related major.
Completion of the associate degree prepares graduates for an entry-level position in the retail or fashion industry; some employers may consider the graduate for a management trainee. Higher-level positions may require a bachelor's degree in fashion or retail merchandising or related major.
Retail merchandising degree programs offer students a flexible schedule with online options. Through the certificate, associate's, and bachelor's programs, students learn about customer service, marketing, and leadership relating to the fashion business.