JustJob Interviews: Merchandising Planner

JustJobs interviews professionals working in a variety of fields. The good folks there have given me permission to post some of their interviews here. So if you’re wondering what it’s like to work in a specific field, you might want to check in here frequently. I’ll be posting interviews as I get them.

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Considering becoming a Merchandising Planner? This interview gives an insight into the world of merchandising. A true career story as told to RetailJobs.org where you’ll find other interviews from professionals in the retail industry from an Area Supevisor to a Sales Associate and everything in between.

What is your job title? How many years of experience do you have in that field?

I am the co-owner and merchandising planner for a small woman’s lingerie and clothing store located in East Tennessee. I have been involved with the retail sector for over 15 years, first getting my start by working for a well-known ‘bricks-and-mortar’ video store. I knew from the start that handling important aspects of a business, such as selection and placing of merchandising, was my cup of tea.

Would you describe the things you do on a typical day?

My day is quite full from start to finish. Since we are a small, independently owned company, I wear many hats. I am the co-owner of the business but also oversee all facets of merchandising. At the start of the day, I contact our list of wholesalers and figure out what needs to be ordered based on what has been selling well. After placing orders, I go through our entire stock of merchandise and decide which price changes need to be applied to move certain items. I am also involved with maintaining advertising accounts and updating company signage.

What’s your ethnicity and gender? How has it hurt or helped you? If you ever experienced discrimination, how have you responded and what response worked best?

My family comes from an Irish and Native American background. While I appear Caucasian, I do have many trademark Cheyenne features, including raised cheekbones and smaller, almond-shaped eyes. I have not encountered much discrimination aside from the occasional crack on my eyes appearing closed when they aren’t. I simply take it in stride and smile.

Do you speak any language other than English? If so, how has it helped you in your job?

English is currently my only language but I am in the process of learning Spanish. I think that limiting yourself to just your main language can only hinder personal and professional relationships that could blossom down the road.

On a scale of 1 to 10 how would you rate your job satisfaction? What would it take to increase that rating?

On a scale of 1 to 10, I would rate my job at a 9. It is extremely rewarding to have the final say on what items are offered for sale at a retail store. There are so many possibilities for being a part of deciding which trends are set in the fashion world and how to implement them. The only thing that would make my job any better than it already is would be even more business!

What did you learn the hard way in this job and how did that happen?

There are only a few things that had to be learned the hard way after stepping into the position of merchandising planner and co-owner for a lingerie store. The biggest thing was for me to not assume that I already knew everything there was to know about the fashion industry. Leaving myself open to learning new things every day is how I grow professionally and personally.

What don’t they teach in school that would’ve been helpful to you?

I learned a great deal of knowledge in school about my chosen profession, but the one thing that a teacher can’t really teach is how to interact with people on the sales floor. Knowing what people want and helping them to find it is extremely rewarding, but it takes the right person to do the job. Thankfully, I have been very blessed in that area.

How did you get started in this line of work? If you could go back and do it differently, what would you change?

I got started many years ago by picking up a part-time job at a nationally recognized video store that I won’t name. I was quickly promoted through the ranks and after a few years of doing the best job that I knew how, I began helping with the planning of merchandise and signage. After the locations I was in charge of closed, I simply took my knowledge and applied for a business license. From there, I found wholesalers and decided that it was time to start my own business. Having merchandising experience, I took on that role and let my business partner handle the retail sales aspect of the company.

What’s the strangest thing that ever happened to you in this job?

There are many strange things which happen on the job, but the strangest by far are the customers who bring their children into the shop with them. Considering the nature of a lingerie business, it always feels weird to see kids walking around my store. Not that there is anything morally wrong with bringing the family in. I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me.

On a good day when things are going well, can you give an example of something that really makes you feel good?

When things are going well and the stars have aligned, it’s because I have been able to help customers find what they are looking for in my store, as well as having been able to get them excited about new products they may not have heard about otherwise.

When nothing seems to go right, what kind of snafus do you handle and what do you dislike the most?

There are of course days where nothing seems to go the way I want it to go. On those days, the level of snafus is pretty high. Customers can get mad when you are out of stock on a certain item that they drove across town to by from my store. Add the phone ringing non-stop and not being able to negotiate with my wholesalers on specific prices and you have quite a mess.

How stressful is your job? Are you able to maintain a comfortable or healthy work-life balance?

Strangely enough, my job comes with a very low stress level. I enjoy the work that I do and I feel like I do it well. Most of my vendors are friendly and I have a strong crew of employees backing the business. Even considering the dual role that I play as merchandising planner and owner, I enjoy coming to work every day.

What’s a rough salary range for the position you hold? Are you paid enough considering your responsibilities?

A rough salary range for a merchandising planner is hard to pinpoint. It is different in every industry. For retail clothing, it sits at around 60k per year. While sometimes it feels like I should be earning more, I live a rich and full life. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

What’s the most rewarding moment you’ve experienced in this position? Of all the things you’ve done at work, what are you most proud of?

The most rewarding thing that has ever happened to me was the positive customer reaction I received once I decided that it was in the company’s best interest to begin carrying more plus-sized items. Customers still express their gratitude every single day for us being the only store in my city that cares about people of all shapes and sizes. I am extremely proud of that.

What’s the most challenging moment you’ve experienced? What would you prefer to forget?

While I don’t have a specific hard time that I would rather forget, I can say that Winter is a horrible season for lingerie and woman’s apparel. Sometimes I wish that season never existed!

What education and skills do you need to get hired and succeed in this field?

To be hired as a merchandising planner, a Bachelor’s degree is usually always required. That, combined with a few years of retail experience is a huge plus.

What would you tell a friend considering your line of work?

I would tell friends wanting to get into my line of work to go for it. The business has been good to me and I would hope that it would be good to them as well.

How much vacation do you take? Is it enough?

I typically try to take two weeks worth of vacation each year. It reinvigorates me and gets me ready to take on the world. It’s not about the time I spend on vacation. it’s about the quality of that time off.

Are there any common misunderstandings you want to correct about what you do?

There are few misunderstandings or misconceptions associated with my job title. As a merchandising planner, I oversee product, but that isn’t all. My job requires me to be a ‘jack of all trades.’

Does this job move your heart? If not, what does?

This job definitely moves my heart. It is one of the most rewarding things I have ever been a part of. Aside from work, I am also an animal rights activist. That incorporates itself into the business a little bit. We don’t offer items like leather or anything else that might have originated from the mistreatment of animals.

If you could write your own ticket, what would you like to be doing in five years?

If I could write my own ticket, I would continue doing what I do now five years from now. I want to continue setting new trends and growing the business.

Is there anything unique about your situation that readers should know when considering your experiences or accomplishments?

My situation is somewhat unique because I came from a limited educational background and worked my way up based on experience and hard-work. My degree is not a business degree. While everyone always recommends to seek a Bachelor’s in business administration or MBA before attempting to hold a position as a merchandising planner, it can be done with blood, sweat and tears alone. That is exactly how I did it.

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