What’s the Difference Between Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Marketing?

Woman holding up a dress in a clothing shop

Understanding the differences between fashion merchandising and fashion marketing may help you focus your fashion career.

A fashion merchandiser buys products from third party vendors and markets them to customers, such as retailers who will sell the product—a business-to-business (B2B) process. A fashion marketer creates advertising campaigns to attract consumers to a brand— a business to consumer (B2C) process. 

In this article, we will discuss the job functions of a fashion merchandiser and a fashion marketer, and the career opportunities for each. Then, we will offer an overview of educational programs that provide a pathway to careers in each field.

Both disciplines offer exciting career opportunities for those who have an eye for trends in the fashion world. Fashion Merchandisers do everything from retail buying to managing stores to designing displays. Whether you are a people person who likes to interact with customers, a trend spotter, who likes to find styles with the most potential, or a creative person who enjoys setting up displays, fashion merchandising offers a future with intriguing potential. 

Fashion Marketers work in advertising agencies, corporate marketing departments, and in social media. Whether you are a graphic designer, a writer, a social media blogger, or an account executive, there is a future for you with high potential earnings.

What is Fashion Merchandising?

Fashion merchandisers buy products from third-party vendors and market them to customers. They select pieces for retail that, based on current fashion trends, customers will be interested in buying, and price them in a way that will both let the company make money and appeal to the company’s target market. 

For instance, if Target bought swimsuits from a third-party vendor and priced them at $100 each, Target shoppers wouldn’t buy them; the demographic that shops for clothing at Target is interested in fashionable and affordable products. That’s why you’ll see swimsuits at Target priced closer to $30 or $40. 

Fashion merchandisers have to know whether or not a product will sell, who will buy the product, and how much of a product to stock in retail stores. They’re sometimes in charge of designing stores or displays in a way that will appeal most to customers and highlight products predicted to be the most successful.

What Does a Fashion Merchandiser Do?

Here are just a few of the roles of a fashion merchandiser:

  • Analyzing which products fit current fashion trends by season
  • Setting up in-store displays to attract buyers
  • Coming up with creative offers and pricing strategies
  • Setting sales goals
  • Negotiating with designers whose apparel you’re buying
  • Ensuring adequate supply for on-shelf or ecommerce
  • Predicting future trends based on market research

Fashion Merchandising Careers

Fashion merchandising offers you a spectrum of exciting career possibilities to choose from. The career path you choose depends upon your passions and talents. If you are a people person, there are opportunities in retail. If you enjoy the behind-the-scenes aspect of fashion, you may choose to work on the business side. Here are just a few of the jobs related to fashion merchandising:

  • Store manager
  • Retail buyer
  • Merchandise consultant
  • Graphic designer
  • Visual display manager
  • Sales strategist

Fashion Merchandising Education Options

Fashion Merchandising is an integral part of most bachelor’s degree (4-year) programs, whether fashion design or graphic design. Typically, merchandising is folded into the curriculum. For instance, at Parsons School of Design/The New School, you can study merchandising as part of the BFA degree in Fashion Design. Or, you can take a continuing education Fashion Merchandising course  as part of Parsons summer program. 

Fashion Merchandising is a key speciality in many Master’s Programs, especially those concentrating on Fashion Management. Also, some schools offer advanced degrees specifically involving Fashion Merchandising and Retail. 

What is Fashion Marketing?

Fashion marketers advertise brands and products to potential customers. In the fast-paced fashion industry, different styles become popular from season to season and year to year. For this reason, new advertising campaigns and marketing strategies need to be created and implemented regularly. 

Much of fashion marketing today is found on social media. People working in fashion marketing are in charge of communicating the brand via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, and other platforms. Feeds are filled with content that engages customers and supports the brand. That’s the goal behind, for example, a brand’s Father’s Day post that wishes all the dads out there a Happy Father’s Day and features reposted pictures of dads and their kids wearing the company’s product. 

Because fashion marketing includes brand development, any effort to rebrand a company or product is also the job of fashion marketers. Any time a new color scheme, font, or general aesthetic is introduced to a brand, it’s because fashion marketers have done research suggesting that a new campaign would help the brand broaden its customer base.

What Does a Fashion Marketer Do?

Here are just a few of the roles of a fashion marketer:

  • Analyzes trends to align the right products with the right consumer
  • Coordinates with agencies on the development of campaigns
  • Develops a multi-channel media strategy to ensure messaging hits all touchpoints
  • Works directly for advertising agencies in a creative capacity
  • Manages the brand’s image and storytelling via social media
  • Captures response to measure results
  • Leverages data analytics to ensure goals are met

How Fashion Marketing Differs from Other Marketing Specializations

First, let’s cover the similarities between fashion marketers and the rest of the marketing world. Whether you’re a marketer for fashion, automotive, home goods or electronics, you are going to concentrate on anticipating consumer desires and how these are reflected in market trends, and how to speak to those insights in an appealing way. All marketers use some of the same tools: data analytics, creative brainstorming, media strategies, and, most importantly, storytelling.

Here’s where fashion marketers differ from the rest. Professionals in this field must consider seasonality. If you want to be a fashion marketer, it also helps if you have an instinct for what’s “hot” (or about to be) and what’s not. Simply put, you’ve got to love fashion and be fascinated with its role as an influencer of popular culture.

Also, fashion marketing has its own specialities. There’s the luxury sector of the market, with names like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and others. Then there are the middle-market brands where consumers purchase everyday items such as jeans, t-shirts, and work apparel. All specialties offer interesting career opportunities

Fashion Marketing Careers

Careers in fashion marketing run the gamut from creative director to social media blogger. You can work inside a brand’s creative department or for an agency that has a significant number of fashion clients. If your talents align with creative design and messaging, there’s a place for you, either inside a fashion brand or at an agency. If you are a trend watcher, data analytics may be your path. If you are a number cruncher, the financial side of fashion marketing and strategy may be your home. Here are just a few of the jobs related to fashion marketing:

  • Consumer behavior specialist
  • Social media manager
  • PR director
  • Brand manager
  • Creative Director
  • Content creator
  • Graphic designer
  • Data analytics specialist
  • Media planner

Fashion Marketing Education Options

As with merchandising, many fashion schools such as Parsons will cover marketing under their bachelor’s programs in Fashion Management and Fashion Design. Other top fashion schools offer specific undergraduate degrees in Fashion Marketing and Branding. Beyond that, there are a wealth of universities and colleges offering Fashion Marketing as a 4-year degree. A number of these institutions also offer Associate degrees in fashion marketing.

If you are interested in obtaining a Master’s degree in Fashion Marketing, there are many fine institutions to choose from. When you search, make sure to investigate “Fashion Management”, as this is where some schools fold in marketing and branding. Master’s programs for Fashion Marketing can be found in many top schools throughout the world in European nations and in Russia and China. Fashion is international and so are its educational options.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Marketing both offer a wealth of exciting career paths. In general, Fashion Merchandising is a business-to-business (B2B) discipline, while Fashion Marketing is more a consumer-facing career (B2C).
  2. Fashion Merchandising careers cover everything from retail buying to the design of in-store displays, to in-store sales.
  3. Fashion Marketing careers can entail either working for the brand or for an advertising agency. Opportunities include market analysis, graphic design, social media blogging, PR, and more.
  4. Two-year, four-year, and master’s degrees are available in both Fashion Merchandising and Fashion Marketing. There are a wealth of programs to choose from both in the U.S. and abroad.

How to Get Started in Fashion Merchandising or Fashion Marketing:

You can sign up for introductory online courses covering Fashion Marketing and Fashion Merchandising through Parsons. Review the choices available—one may be a perfect fit for your interests.

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