Buying and merchandising in the fashion industry remain among the more glamourous roles within the retail sector, but has remuneration suffered in these harsh economic times? Carly Gribble, divisional manager at Fashion & Retail Personnel, offers up the necessary salary information and a market perspective.
Generally speaking, buying and merchandising (B&M) salaries are higher than those in retail operations and design & production. Often B&M salaries start at relatively low levels but they have the potential for rapid rises. Upon reaching buyer/merchandiser level, pay packages can be very rewarding.
Over the last 12 months salary levels in the fashion industry have remained fairly static. Many organisations have implemented pay freezes and new job offers haven't really seen significant salary increases. The B&M recruitment markets have, however, been fairly buoyant over the last year. That said, there has been a shift in recruitment methodology, with many retailers cutting their recruitment budgets and some attempting to fill positions directly.
Fashion B&M - Buying
|Graduate/Entry Level BAA||16,000||20,000||17,000|
|First Appointment Asst Buyer||20,000||24,000||22,000|
|Established Asst Buyer||24,000||28,000||26,000|
|Head of Buying||65,000||90,000||75,000|
The whole recruitment process is generally taking longer and retailers are much more cautious about hiring the right people with very specific skills; they have become very picky and would rather wait to hire, than hire someone who does not completely fulfil the brief. Directly relevant experience is absolutely essential for the bulk of the roles. There is also an emphasis on value for money, with employers tending to favour those candidates with lower salary requirements.
We are also seeing the creation of new roles, where retailers are wanting to stay ahead in a fiercely competitive market, they are changing their tactics and implementing new strategies which may require specialist skills.
Fashion B&M - Merchandising
|Graduate/Entry level Allocator||16,000||20,000||17,000|
|First Appointment Asst Merchandiser||20,000||24,000||22,000|
|Established Assistant Merchandiser||24,000||28,000||26,000|
The benefits packages available to B&M candidates can vary greatly between businesses; however there are some general rules of thumb:
- At entry level, the package will consist of a basic salary, holiday entitlement and possibly staff discount and a season ticket loan.
- For the next level up, for example an assistant merchandiser, you can expect to also receive a discretionary bonus scheme of up to 20% of salary, and some companies may also provide a contributory pension scheme.
- At a buyer or merchandiser level, the package will often include a bonus of up to 40% of salary, a car allowance of around £6,000 per year (or equivalent flexible benefits), healthcare and pension scheme.
B&M in demand
The retail buying and merchandising recruitment market is largely candidate-driven. There is a lack of active candidates in the sector. This is partly down to there being a general lack of candidates with the relevant skills, within merchandising particularly. Economic uncertainty is also a major concern, with many employees seeking job security by staying with their current employers.
There are fewer buying roles available at present; however there are some very strong candidates who are searching for those types of roles.
Merchandising roles are more challenging to fill, due to the shortage of good candidates. This is particularly the case with core merchandisers. Senior assistant merchandisers up to senior merchandisers are in high demand and they have a broad range of opportunities from which to choose. Branch merchandiser roles are also notoriously difficult to fill, with only a limited number of candidates having the specific experience required.
Are there any signs that fears about plummeting consumerspending, rising prices and the government cuts arestarting to affect salary levels?
There have been further redundancies reported recently, including at one of the largest fashion retailers, The Arcadia Group. In addition we are hearing of pay freezes. Official figures demonstrate indicate there has been a lower level of spending across retail; consumers are buying fewer items than they were a year ago and as disposable incomes are down across the country, with the general public more frequently postponing the purchase of non-essential items.
Retailers are in stiff competition with each other, so although there is a need to minimise costs, including those associated with staffing, there is also a need to employ the strongest team, in order to remain competitive. Salary levels in the candidate-driven merchandising field are tending to remain static.
However, in some instances, candidates are able to command higher salary levels where there are occasionally bidding wars for the top people. In general, though, we are seeing low increases on salaries and in some cases, candidates are moving for the same money.
Some organisations are using heightened benefits packages, rather than salaries, in order to reward and retain their employees. Irrespective, buying and merchandising are crucial functions within a retail organisation, and there will always be a need for highly experienced candidates who can add value and support organisational change.
Getting into B&M
The retail sector is very fast-moving and competitive. To successfully enter or progress within retail you need to be extremely focused. Relevant experience is essential to entering into the sector, so internships and work placements are highly valuable. The retail sector is constantly evolving and reinventing itself and this will have an effect on career opportunities within B&M. Advancing technology, globalisation and changing consumer behaviour, for example, means there are broad and varied career opportunities within the sector. Entry-level candidates will require a relevant degree (fashion or business) as well as experience. Experienced candidates need to be highly commercial and be able to demonstrate their value to an organisation.
Biggest advantages to pursuing a career in B&M
There are many attractions to pursuing a career in B&M, including:
- The opportunity to be in a fun, fast-moving and constantly evolving industry.
- Involvement with anticipating future trends.
- Seeing the results of your work very quickly.
- An exciting environment where you can influence the success of the business.
- Competitive salaries with the opportunity to earn rewarding bonuses.
- The opportunity to travel for inspiration and to source products / meet suppliers.
- Larger organisations provide a good structure for career development and progression.