Challenges of a Merchandiser
- With the advent of fast fashion, the order timelines are shrinking by the day. This makes the job of a merchandiser much more complicated than it ever was. When the time to market is short, the key to success lies in the effective management of the order. The merchandiser sits in the driving seat when it comes to ordering management and fulfillment.
- Merchandiser acts as a bridge between the manufacturer and the buyer; hence the alignment of the internal processes as per buyer’s needs and schedules is a merchandiser’s responsibility. But, for a process as complicated as apparel manufacturing is, ensuring that all the various stages and silos with the process work in sync with the buyer requirements are an everyday challenge a merchandiser faces on his desk.
- In any order, the 3/4th of the execution cycle time is spent on merchandising activities and the rest 1/4th on the manufacturing only. Also, merchandising is a highly people-oriented task; hence, ensuring the complete network of activities stick to a given schedule is a task in itself. Manufacturing is a task cycle with a lot of repeatabilities, hence, work management principles apply to manufacturing, making it much easier to manage scientifically. But, merchandising being human-oriented, needs complicated project management focus to ensure successful completion.
- Merchandising performance is primarily measured as right first time, which leaves a considerably small jiggle room for mistakes and errors, making merchandising highly crucial activity to get right the first time onwards.
- If there are any unforeseen delays in merchandising activities, the manufacturing cycle time has to be compressed to accommodate lost time and meet the final delivery date. Hence, merchandising performance is the key to the overall organization’s success. Thus, merchandising becomes a critical role, where precision, responsiveness, and focus are the basic requirements with every order cycle.
Key Performance Metrics – Merchandiser
As discussed before, merchandising is a people-oriented task, thus, measuring a merchandiser’s performance is not as easy as assessing manufacturing performances. There are certain metrics that are used in organizations to assess the merchandising performance:
- Enquiry response time, i.e. The time it takes for a merchandiser to respond to the buyer email or enquiry. Ideally, a response should be sent to a buyer enquiry within 24 hours or latest by the next working day. A costing enquiry should be replied to within 48 hours of the enquiry or request, with all the possible alternatives.
- File handover schedule achievement: This metric is used to keep an eye on the timely handover of the production files, from the merchandising department to the production departments.
- Sample Delivery Percentage is the time taken from the request date for the delivery of the samples to the buyer. This metric is important not only to assess the merchandiser’s performance, but to also record any delay’s from the buyer’s side (as an evidence to justify any resulting order delays), and to establish a good delivery record for future orders.
Sample delivery percentage = (Number of samples sent on or before time/ total number of samples sent)* 100
- Sample rejection rate: This metric is important both at the buyer’s and manufacturer’s ends. It highlights the performance of the pattern makers, and merchandisers to interpret tech packs. A lower rejection rate successfully shortens the development cycle, while instilling confidence in the buyer.
- Sample adoption level represents the accuracy of the manufacturer’s design team to understand and represent the buyer’s tastes, seasonal trends and the respective costs. Higher the adoption level, the better is the long term relationship with the buyer.
Sample adoption level = (Sample adopted by buyer / Samples presented to the buyer) * 100
- Sample Hit Rate. This metric represents the sampling conversion rate to actual buyer orders.
Sampling hit rate = (Number of styles ordered / Number of styles sampled) * 100
- Orders Handled Per Unit Time. This Metric measures the number of orders handled by individual merchandisers within a given time frame, to highlight and assess the amount of work handled by the respective merchant.
- Value Handled Per Unit Time: Similar to the number of orders handled per unit time, this metric represents to the financial worth or value of the work handled by individual merchandisers in a given time frame.
Why Are Merchandisers Important?
In this article, we have talked at length about the roles and responsibilities of a merchandiser. Apparel manufacturing is a complex, multi-stage process. When such a process has to be run smoothly, within a short time frame, process management and coordination can become the difference a successful and failed order completion.
Merchandisers are responsible to effectively coordinate the order from the start to the end. In any industry, businesses tend to fall into the trap of working within functional silos. To keep these functional silos aligned and focused towards one common goal is the role a merchandiser plays for the business. Thus, a sound merchandising team is crucial for any business to run smoothly with a shared focus on the customer requirements.