Fashion Merchandising vs. Retail Merchandising

Merchandising has become a hot career path for many young business graduates. But, with how diverse the industry is, even those with other degrees such as engineering or economics can make their gateway into the world of merchandising. However, fashion is a completely different task.

Merchandising, everywhere, follows the simple rule of promoting sales of certain goods and products. In this case, through retail outlets — where the said goods and products are put on display and even trial, if necessary. So, what comprises fashion merchandising? And what’s retail merchandising? Which is the better option? Here’s your guide to get a basic insight into the same.

Merchandising: Fashion, Visual & Retail

Fashion merchandising requires some explanation. It is the vehement promotion of apparels such that maximum sales are encouraged. This includes taking in requests and feedback from customers, even potential ones. Under the broad umbrella, this is fashion merchandising, where you also have advertisement, display, sales strategies, and campaigns.

All of these elements work together with visual merchandising — in order to ensure a purchase. It’s not difficult to see why visual merchandising is an indispensable tool for fashion merchandisers.  Some visual merchandising examples include mannequins dressed impeccably in displays and the decor which is color-coded to ensure that customers feel motivated enough to spend.

It involves everything inside, around, or outside the store that can be seen by potential buyers and passers-by. The purpose of visual merchandising is to ensure that the customer wants to come in, even if it’s only to have a look.

Retail merchandising is a collection of activities that ensure the sale and full end use of goods and products. Most retailers even keep their own personal collection of merchandise and the display of this merchandise is of utmost importance.

The rules of visual merchandising apply to the world of retail as well. The sale of the goods and products is important in maintaining the retail outlet, that helps generate more revenue. This, in turn, makes retailers better able to apply tools such as promotional merchandising and more effective sales techniques.

Fashion v/s Retail: What’s the Difference?

Goods and Products

For starters, let’s establish clearly that fashion merchandising is nothing but a specialized form of retail merchandising. This is because the first difference between the two is the products they’re selling to their customers.

Fashion merchandisers focus on apparels, shoes, fashion accessories, and even make-up. They keep up-to-date with the latest trends and often dabble in unique styles and accessories. Some even have specific specializations. For example, sportswear for women or intimate wear.

Retail merchandisers may sell clothes and other outfits, but they also include other not fashion-related goods such as furniture or food items.


Retail merchandisers often purchase goods and products from wholesale outlets of brands and companies and sell them to the public on behalf of the said brands and companies. The order cannot be reversed. However, fashion merchandisers can sell to both the public and retail merchandisers. If the merchandiser manufactures goods used in making apparels, he/she may sell these to companies and thus become a wholesale outlet.

Profit and Pay

On the whole, fashion merchandisers make more profit than retail merchandisers. This is because, in the constantly evolving world of fashion, there is constant training required. Some specific jobs such as fashion director, designer, or the catalog production manager, all make upwards of 120,500 USD. However, the employment rates for fashion merchandisers are only in a few select places in the States such as New York and California.

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